The commercial debut of the Ariane 5 rocket will take place at the beginning of July, the European Space Agency (ESA) said last week.
The debut will come more than three years after the first Ariane 5 exploded in June 1996, and eight months after the rocket’s third qualification flight.
The July launch will put an Indonesian satellite, Telkom-1, into orbit with WorldSpace’s AsiaStar direct radio broadcast satellite.
ESA ministers are to meet on 11 May to decide new programmes covering satellites, space probes and Europe’s part in the International Space Station.
These projects will include SMART-1, an advanced technology mission to the moon, which could be launched in 2001, and continuation of the Earth Explorer programme. The latter could include an optional `Living Planet’ earth observation mission.
ESA also wants to decide on Europe’s equivalent to the US Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, to be called the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).