PARIS —  The Arianespace launch consortium on Oct. 29 said it would advance the date of its next heavy-lift Ariane 5 launch, carrying two commercial telecommunications spacecraft, to early December to enable a mid-December liftoff of Europe’s Gaia star-mapping satellite on a Europeanized Soyuz vehicle.

Evry, France-based Arianespace said the Ariane 5 launch of Luxembourg-based SES’s Astra 5B and the Amazonas 4A owned by Hispasat of Spain, previously scheduled for Dec. 13, would be moved to Dec. 6. The launch will take place at Europe’s Guiana Space Center in the northeast coast of South America.

Given the approximately two weeks need to prepare a medium-lift Soyuz campaign following an Ariane 5 launch, Arianespace said it had scheduled to launch of the billion-dollar Gaia science satellite on Dec. 20.

European Space Agency (ESA) Gaia managers had been forced to pull the satellite from a planned Nov. 20 launch to repair a digital timing unit on the satellite. ESA officials said the new Gaia launch window would open on Dec. 17 and last for between two and three weeks.


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Europe’s Star-mapping Gaia Satellite Finally Launch Pad-bound

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.