Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution gets go-ahead

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The European Space Agency has approved the long-mooted  design to add 20% payload capacity to its 10-tonne Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher.

Pending budget approval by ESA member states in late 2012, EADS's Astrium space division will undertake development for launch from 2017.

With a new restartable cryogenic upper stage, and nose fairing extended by 3m, the ME will be capable of simultaneously placing two satellites of more than five tonnes each in geostationary orbit, cutting launch cost per kilogram by 20% compared with today's Ariane 5 ECA.

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ESA plans for 2016 'mid life evolution' of its Ariane 5