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Ariane 5 lifts off with record-setting Automated Transfer Vehicle payload


08:14, June 07, 2013

PARIS, June 6 (Xinhua) -- The record-breaking Ariane 5 has successfully lifted off from the Spaceport in French Guiana at 21:52 GMT Wednesday with a heavy-lift mission to orbit Europe's fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-4) for servicing of the International Space Station, media reported on Thursday.

This new launch mission, designed Flight VA213 in Arianespace's series, used an Ariane 5 ES version equipped with a storable propellant upper stage, with a flight time of just over one hour.

During the mission, the upper stage performed two burns that were separated by a ballistic coast phase, after which the ATV was injected into a circular orbit at 260 km altitude, about 64 minutes after liftoff.

"I am delighted with this success, the 69th launch of an Ariane 5 and - as importantly - the 55th consecutive success for this launcher, which continues to set records not only for reliability, but also for its availability - as demonstrated once again with a perfect countdown this evening," said Stephane Israel, Arianespace Chairman and CEO from the Spaceport's control room.

The Ariane vehicle delivered a total lift performance of 20,252 kg, which included 19,887 kg for ATV, making this resupply spacecraft the largest payload ever to be orbited by an Ariane launcher.

The ATV-4, orbited by Ariane 5 and named after German-born physicist Albert Einstein, carries a record payload of 2,480 kg dry cargo with more than 1400 items.

The ATV spacecraft is scheduled to make an automatic docking at the International Space Station on June 15.

"With another successful launch of the ATV, and another record in lifting capacity, European industry demonstrates its capacity to produce unique spacecrafts, providing ESA (European Space Agency) with a key role among the partners of the International Space Station," noted Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General.

The European Space Agency manages the ATV program, with an Astrium-led industry consortium responsible for producing the resupply spacecraft.

Arianespace has launched all four of the ATVs orbited to date, with the previous three resupply craft lofted by Ariane 5s in March 2008, February 2011 and March 2012.

Wednesday's success is the third Arianespace mission in 2013 from the Spaceport in French Guiana.

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