Last week, an Ariane 5 rocket launched from Europe’s primary spaceport in French Guiana. Normally, such launches garner little attention outside of aerospace circles because they’re typically successful and take place in a pretty remote location—in the jungles of South America.
However, Tuesday’s launch of a pair of communications satellites to geostationary transfer orbit is notable for a couple of reasons.
For one, the rocket company Ariane Group, and the European Space Agency invited a talented pair of photographers to capture the Ariane 5 launch in exquisite detail. The fruits of the work by Trevor Mahlmann and John Kraus appear in the photo gallery above.
Arianespace also has (or soon will) reached some notable milestones in the history of its launch program. Last Tuesday’s mission marked the 250th time a member of the Ariane fleet of rockets—there have been five versions, Ariane 1 through 5—has taken flight. Moreover, on December 24, the Ariane family of rockets will celebrate its 40th anniversary.
— CNES (@CNES) December 1, 2019
The family of rockets should fly yet a while longer. NASA’s extremely valuable James Webb Space Telescope is due to launch on an Ariane 5 rocket in early 2021, making for that rocket’s most high-profile mission.
And as early as the end of 2020, the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket should take flight from French Guiana. Although this rocket is fully expendable, with less expensive components and modern manufacturing processes, it represents an effort by the European rocket company to compete with SpaceX and other lower-cost launch vehicles from around the world. Members of the European Space Agency also recently greenlit funding to continue development of the low-cost, potentially reusable Prometheus rocket engine. So we can expect more fire and fury from French Guiana for years to come.