Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket lifted off for the final time last month, bringing to a close 27 years of reliable service.
The European Space Agency (ESA), which oversaw the mission, has just released a 360-degree video of the launch from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, allowing space fans to strap on a pair of VR goggles to see the 164-foot-tall (50-meter) rocket blast skyward from just a few meters away.
The camera was clamped firmly to a steel cable on the northern ramp surrounding the Ariane 5 flame trench, and the audio, which is also from the camera, picks up the noise of the approximately 3 million pounds of thrust generated by the rocket as it soars toward space.
If you’re not able to get hold of a pair of goggles, simply view the 360-degree video on a smartphone and move it around to explore the launch site prior to lift-off. Alternatively, on desktop, you can use a mouse to drag the picture around.
Ariane 5’s final flight successfully deployed the German aerospace agency DLR’s Heinrich Hertz experimental communications satellite and the French communications satellite Syracuse 4b into geostationary transfer orbits.
Earlier missions saw the dependable rocket launch the lauded James Webb Space Telescope, which is helping scientists to learn more about deep space and the history of the universe, and the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft, which will explore Jupiter and its three largest icy moons.
The Ariane 5 rocket bears some similarity to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV, with a core booster and two side boosters affording it extra power for more complex missions carrying heavier payloads.
In its lifetime, Ariane 5 suffered only two complete failures, one on its maiden flight in 1996 and another in 2002.
Europe is currently readying the Ariane 6 as Ariane 5’s replacement. The new rocket is undergoing testing ahead of its maiden launch. It was supposed to fly for the first time in 2020, but various delays suggest that we’ll be waiting until at least the end of this year before we see it finally blast off.