KOUROU, French Guiana -- A mechanical failure in the turbo pump of the Ariane's third stage caused Europe's first commercial rocket to crash during its maiden operational flight, a French scientist said Saturday.
Frederic d'Allest, general director of France's National Center for Space Studies, said technicians determined the cause of the crash Friday by analyzing data flown from a Brazilian tracking station to the launch site in Kourou.
The turbo pump is a delicate instrument that injects the rocket's liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel into the combustion chamber of the third stage.
D'Allest said the second commercial flight of Ariane, origninally scheduled for Nov. 23, would be delayed until modifications could be made on the pump.
The disastrous attempt to launch the Ariane came one day after the successful test of a privately financed, American-built rocket from an island off Texas in a flight that pioneered commercial space rocketry in the United States.
The crash 13 minutes after liftoff led to speculation that the European Space Agency would have trouble keeping clients for its satellite launching program. But d'Allest said the pump failure, though distressing, was not unusual.
'We think that the potential clients for Ariane have kept their confidence,' he said.