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Arianespace launches biggest telecommunications satellite yet

Ariane
An Ariane 5 rocket is launched Thursday in Kourou, French Guiana. Arianespace's heavy-lift launcher orbited Europe's largest ever telecommunications satellite, Alphasat, and India's latest meteorological spacecraft, INSAT-3D, on the third Ariane 5 mission of 2013. The European Space Agency provided this photo.

KOUROU, French Guiana -- Arianespace has launched Europe's largest telecommunications satellite ever as well as a meteorological spacecraft for India from the South American country of French Guiana.

The European space consortium says the Alphasat satellite will provide voice and data transmission services for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Arianespace says Alphasat was one of its heaviest loads at 6,650 kilograms. (14,660 pounds).

It says the Indian spacecraft will provide improved meteorological observation and monitoring of land and ocean surfaces. The spacecraft also carries a data-relay transponder for search-and-rescue operations.

The rocket was launched late Thursday.

Arianespace has 21 shareholders from 10 European countries, including the CNES space agency in France.