Space: December 21, 1999

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: The Ariane-5 space booster, the most powerful from a European state, launched its first commercial payload on 11 Dec. This was the European Space Agency's XMM scientific satellite, which weighed 3.7 tons. The complete launch vehicle weighed 746 tons. Ariane-5 is twice as heavy as Ariane-4, and is expected to lift three times the weight into orbit (10-12 tons). Ariane Space expects to launch six commercial payloads next year. --Stephen V Cole