Europe's Ariane 6 rocket blasts off for the first time

Europe's Ariane 6 rocket blasted off successfully for its maiden flight on Tuesday, a live video feed showed. The success of its three-hour flight is crucial for European countries, who hope to regain independent access to space more than a year after they retired their workhorse Ariane 5 rocket.

Europe's new Ariane 6 rocket launched for the first time on Tuesday, carrying with it the continent's hopes of regaining independent access to space.

The micro-satellites were delivered one hour and six minutes after the rocket blasted off from Kourou, French Guiana. The rocket's success marks a "historic day" for Europe, announced European Space Agency chief Josef Aschbacher.

The much-delayed inaugural flight of the European Space Agency's (ESA) most powerful rocket launched smoothly into clear skies at 4pm local time (1900 GMT) from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, an AFP correspondent observed.

Crews on the ground at the launch site, which is surrounded by jungle on the South American coast, applauded as the rocket soared into clear skies.

Ariane 6's first launch, which was originally planned for 2020, is hoped to bring an end to a difficult time for European space efforts.

Since the last flight of its workhorse predecessor, Ariane 5, a year ago, Europe has been unable to launch satellites or other missions into space without relying on rivals such as Elon Musk's US firm SpaceX.

ESA chief Josef Aschbacher said it was a "very important moment for Europe".

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