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Ariane launcher foresees delays in getting satellites

Ariane 5 launch in October   

January 11, 1999
Web posted at: 12:57 p.m. EDT (1257 GMT)

CAYENNE, French Guiana (Reuters) -- Satellite manufacturers' failure to deliver their payloads when promised will disrupt activities of the Ariane rocket launch company in 1999 for the second straight year, officials said Saturday.

"We are always going to have the same problems with the delivery of satellites. We should have no illusions about that," Arianespace President Jean-Marie Luton told a news conference.

"As I see things, we are going to have the same kind of scheduling problems as in 1998, notably many more launches in the second half of the year than in the first half of the year."

"We will have to adapt our launch calendar to that of our clients, who do not necessarily respect their contracted delivery dates," Luton said.

He said Arianespace was targeting up to 13 launches in 1999, but the exact number would depend on satellite deliveries.

The Paris-based company launches the highly reliable Ariane-4 rocket series from the European Space Agency (ESA) launch center in Kourou, French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America.

After three test flights since 1996, it plans to put the more powerful Ariane-5 rocket into commercial service this year. Three Ariane-5 missions are planned.

Despite 11 textbook launches in 1998, operations were irregular.

After four missions between February and April, launches were halted until late in August, as no satellites contracted for were ready for launch.

The company ended the year at a frantic pace, with five launches in the last quarter, when the satellite holdup eased.

Virtually all the world's suppliers of satellites were to blame for the irregular scheduling.

Communications operators pushed for ever-quicker delivery of satellites in 1998.

Specialists said Hughes Space & Communications, the world's leading supplier of large communications satellites, was reconsidering production methods after a spate of in-orbit failures by its 601 series satellite.

Lockheed Martin has targeted a 12-month production cycle for its spacecraft, an objective previously considered too rapid for reliable in-space operations.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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