This week, after nearly three decades of providing Europe access to space, the Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket completed its final mission. On Wednesday, July 5, at 22:00 GMT, the rocket took off from the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Its final flight launched two payloads into geostationary orbit. The first was the 3,400kg Heinrich-Hertz-Satellit that will test advanced communication technologies on behalf of the German government. The second was the 3,750kg Syracuse 4B satellite belonging to the French military. 

Ariane 5’s storied career began back in 1996. Since Wednesday evening, it includes 117 orbital liftoffs. Both satellites were successfully deployed about 30 minutes after launch. Shortly thereafter, Stéphane Israël, CEO of France’s Arianespace which operates the rocket, said, “Ariane 5 is now over. Ariane 5 has perfectly finished its work. It’s really now a legendary launcher. But Ariane 6 is coming.”

Take off arch of Ariane 5