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The first Ariane launch on 24 December 1979



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The first Ariane launch on 24 December 1979
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The successful launch of the Ariane rocket at the Kourou launch base in French Guyana on 24 December 1979 marked a milestone for European space flight. The Ariane achieved what no other European rocket had ever achieved: all three stages ignited without problems, the rocket reached a height of 218 kilometres and put a 1.6 ton instrument capsule into orbit. Europe had finally achieved independent space flight and won back faith in its technological capacity. The launch had originally been programmed for 15 December, but since one of the four first-stage Viking engines had not ignited correctly, the clamps securing the rocket to the launch pad had not opened.

Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace.
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