Arianespace's next launch of the basic Ariane 5, carrying the Galaxy 12 and Insat 3A communications satellites and planned for 31 March, has been delayed by a further 20 days for more checks. The launch had been put back from 28 February for investigations into the failure of the first improved Ariane 5 ECA.

The European company is to "check the whole system. We are taking corrective measures." Six Ariane 5Gs await launches, but with the Ariane 5 ECA grounded possibly until 2004, more basic models are to be ordered. Only six commercial launches are planned this year.

The final Ariane 4 was launched successfully from Kourou, French Guiana, in mid-February. The Ariane 44L placed the Loral/Alcatel-built Intelsat 907 communications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. There have been only three failures in 116 launches of the Ariane 4 since 1988, and 74 consecutive successes since the last failure in 1994.

Arianespace is to launch WildBlue Communications' first satellite in 2005, on an Ariane 5. The 4.7t Ka-band internet services satellite is being built by Space Systems/Loral. Initially, WildBlue will use capacity on Telesat Canada's Boeing-built Anik F2 to be launched this year.

Source: Flight International