‘Johannes Kepler’ Blasts Off: Europe’s Biggest-Ever Space Payload Goes into Orbit
The freighter Johannes Kepler is on its way to the International Space Station. The unmanned ship, the heaviest load ever carried into orbit by a European rocket, will dock automatically with the ISS using laser-guided technology.
First, the sky began to burn. Within a few seconds, the surroundings at the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana turned orange. Then a dot of fire rose into the sky, slowly at first, then faster and faster. After a moment’s delay, the sound of the rocket could be heard, an infernal roar from the launch site which made the ground shake and which could be felt in the gut.
The rocket that launched late on Wednesday evening is an Ariane 5 ES launch vehicle, which is taking Europe’s space transporter Johannes Kepler into space. At over 20 tons, it is the heaviest load that a European rocket has ever carried into orbit.