Mon, Jul 19, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Ariane rocket launches new Canadian satellite

REUTERS , KOUROU, FRENCH GUIANA

A European Ariane rocket blasted off from French Guiana late on Saturday and launched a satellite to provide high-speed Internet access to remote parts of Canada, space officials said.

The Ariane-5 rocket departed from the European Space Agency's launch center in Kourou, French Guiana at 9.44pm.

The rocket lit up the equatorial night sky and was visible from the ground for 30 seconds before disappearing into low cloud.

Scheduled for launch last Mon-day, the mission was called off three times when technical and weather problems halted countdown. Twenty-eight minutes after launch, the rocket released the ANIK F2 satellite for Ottawa-based Telesat Canada, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bell Canada.

"This satellite has a new frequency band that can offer high-speed Internet anywhere in Can-ada," Telesat vice president Roger Tinley said after the launch.

"We have many regions in Canada that doesn't have high-speed Internet access, particularly in the north and outside urban areas. With this satellite we hope to cover all of Canada including the most isolated areas," he said.

Tinley said the cost of ANIK F2 -- satellite, launch and insurance -- was approximately US$600 million. Designed to operate in space for 15 years, Anik F2 is expected to begin service in October. It will also provide standard telecommunications services to businesses and homes in Canada and the US.

Billed by the Arianespace rocket launch company as "the world's largest commercial satellite ever launched," ANIK F2 weighed over 5.9 tonnes at launch and was built by Boeing Space Systems as part of its new 702 satellite series.

After a series of high profile failures of companies marketing small microsatellites in the late 1990s, a trend toward larger and heavier satellites has re-emerged.

Arianespace improved its ability to launch heavy satellites with the introduction of the Ariane-5 series in 1996. But the company suffered a setback in late 2002 when a first attempt to launch an upgraded Ariane-5 rocket capable of carrying 10 tonnes into space failed.

The firm's chief executive, Jean-Yves Le Gall said that another attempt to launch the 10-tonne version would be made in October.

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