Say goodbye to Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket with these stunning final launch photos (Image Credit: Space.com)
The most dependable rocket in Europe’s spaceflight history has sung its swan song.
The final launch of the Ariane 5 rocket took place on Wednesday (July 5) at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT), from the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
For its final mission, Ariane 5 launched a pair of communications satellites for the German and Italian governments. Ariane 5 began its operational career in 1996, and has stood as ESA’s workhorse launch vehicle longer than any previous Ariane models.
In its final flight, Ariane 5 successfully delivered its two payloads to geostationary orbit, but perhaps the most notable part of the launch took place in the seconds it took the rocket to clear the tower.
The morning following the final launch, ESA tweeted a group of photos from liftoff. They feature some close-ups of the launch pad, with the fire from Ariane 5’s formidable solid rocket boosters lighting the surrounding area like the sun.
Another handful of images was also taken by photographer Jody Amiet, which feature other incredible shots from the historic launch.
The two-stage rocket was built by Airbus Defense and Space, and managed by Arianespace for ESA and CNES, the French space agency.
Now that Ariane 5 has closed out its launch manifest, Europe is left with a gap in available launch vehicles until the Ariane 6 is ready.
However, delays in that rocket’s development have continually extended the timeline for its expected completion. The most recent estimates have the rocket’s first flight taking place in late 2023, but it may shift into 2024.