Arianespace is preparing to delay the third and final European Space Agency (ESA)-funded demonstration flight of the Ariane 5 satellite launcher from July to September because it cannot find a commercial customer willing to provide a payload.

The Ariane 503 launcher will be ready for lift-off in July, with the Aerospatiale Automatic Re-entry Demonstrator capsule on board, but European commercial launch service company Arianespace says there is no chance of it flying without a commercial payload.

Arianespace adds that, although it is holding discussions with several potential customers which already have satellites on its launch orderbook, it will take time to meet the "launcher compatibility requirements", even once any deal.

The first Ariane 5 launchwas a failure. The 502 launch in October 1997 was largely successful, but that launcher did not place its technology satellites into a perfect geostationary transfer orbit.

Source: Flight International