Demonstrating the excellence of the European aerospace industry, Airbus' A300-600ST Super Transporter - nicknamed Beluga - featuring the world's most voluminous cargo hold, landed in Cayenna, French Guiana, yesterday at 17:30 (local time). It carried the Spot 5 Earth observation satellite of CNES (French space agency), which was then delivered to the Guiana space centre in Kourou. This is the first time that the Beluga flew from Toulouse (France) to French Guiana, with a stop over in Cabo Verde, and was used to transport a complete satellite. The Spot 5 satellite, which was developed and produced by Astrium for CNES, will be launched from Kourou by an Ariane 4 in April, and positioned at an altitude of 832 kilometres.

On-board the Beluga, the 3,000 kilogram satellite was packaged in two special containers with individual isotherm protection for the trip. The total consignment was 4.8 metres high, 7 metres long and 4.5 metres wide, too large to be carried by any other freight aircraft. Each container was linked to a preheating device, especially developed by Airbus Transport International for this type of satellite transportation, maintaining a constant temperature inside the containers during the flight. The platform and the payload of the satellite were in separate containers.

Named after the bulbous white whale it resembles, the Beluga was developed by Airbus primarily to transport its own aircraft sections among its manufacturing sites across Europe. Today, five Belugas are in service with Airbus. The main deck of the A300-600ST is 37.7 metres long and the diameter of the cross section is 7.1 metres- wider than any other civil or military aircraft type currently in service. The Beluga can carry up to 47 tonnes of freight over a range of 1,670 km/900 nm.

In addition, the aircraft are available for charter operations through a subsidiary company, Airbus Transport International ( which has encountered ever-increasing demand for this unique service. To date the Belugas have carried several modules for the International Space Station and are also the preferred transport for large and valuable paintings. The personalized service offered by ATI thus ensures a high level of customer satisfaction with loading, unloading and delivery designed to be fast, safe, flexible and reliable, as demonstrated by five years of successful operations.

A leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK and Spain, as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China and Japan. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is a joint EADS Company with BAE SYSTEMS.