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By 1977, there had only been three initial customers lined up for Ariane; however, in December 1977, communications satellite operator Intelsat was persuaded to placed an order for two Intelsat IVs to be launched using Ariane.
This was considered a major coup for the programme as Intelsat was viewed as heavily committed to using the rival Space Shuttle launcher for a large number of its satellites at that point.
Ariane 1 was the first launcher to be developed with the primary purpose of sending commercial satellites into geosynchronous orbit.
Crucially, it was designed with the ability of sending a pair of satellites into orbit on a single launcher, thus reducing costs.
Once fully assembled, the rocket would be moved a short distance to the launch pad itself on a mobile rail-mounted platform and stored within a fully enclosed air conditioned service tower, where the payload would be installed and final checks performed under clean room conditions.
Prior to Ariane's first launch, there was some scepticism, much coming from American and British figures, that the endeavour was an expensive indulgence that could be unnecessary, and rendered uncompetitive, by the upcoming Space Shuttle, a partially reusable launch system that was then under development by NASA.
It was decided that Ariane should launch on 15 December 1979 and, 38 hours prior the launch, the countdown was initiated; however, a technical issue was encountered in the final hour which led to an abort.
Despite fears that the launch would have to be delayed for a month, it was decided to resume the countdown for a second attempt.
The Ariane 1 was a four-stage vehicle (fourth stage put satellite from GTO to GEO is usually not counted as part of rocket, because it is included in 1.85 tons of payload).
For the first flight, designated as L-O1 (Lancement [Launch] 01), the payload consisted of an Aeritalia-built test instrumentation system, known as CAT (Capsule Ariane Technologique), for the purpose of measuring all key stages of the ascent in great detail, such as noise, stress, acceleration, temperature, and pressure; this unit was also designed to simulate a real satellite payload.
CAT was successfully placed into an orbit of 202 km by 35,753 km; the successful deployment of this payload indicated the end of the American monopoly on commercial satellite launches.
Multinational effort became a quick focus point for the L3S proposal; early on, emphasis was placed upon cooperation on the initiative between Germany and France, while increasing contribution from other countries also came into the picture over time.
On 21 September 1973, the legal agreement for the L3S, was signed.