Ariane 5 launches two satellites

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An Ariane 5 ECA has successfully launched two satellites into geostationary transfer orbit from the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.

The primary payload is a public-private communications satellite, dubbed Alphasat. The spacecraft is the first of a new line of satellite buses designed and built by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Thales Alenia, the largest satellite ever built in Europe. The satellite will be operated by commercial provider Inmarsat, but will host experimental payloads for ESA.

The secondary payload is an Indian government weather satellite, INSAT-3D, which will host a communications payload and an experimental star finder.

The launch marks the 70th for the Ariane 5, according to the Flightglobal Ascend database.

The Ariane 5 is Europe's primary launch vehicle, widely considered highly reliable. The launch vehicle is slated to be replaced by a new version, the Ariane 6, around 2020. In the meantime, an interim version called the Ariane 5+ is scheduled to enter service in 2018.