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After months of delays caused by technical glitches, the new Ariane 5 rocket blasted off Thursday in a launch seen as crucial to restoring confidence after the maiden effort ended in disaster last year.

The successful launch from Kourou, French Guiana, was a relief for European space officials, who are hoping the new rocket will seal their lead in the commercial satellite-launching market.

The maiden flight of Ariane 5 on June 4, 1996, ended in an explosion just 37 seconds after liftoff.

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