The Ariane-4 is a European disposable medium-class carrier rocket, which was used from 1988 to 2003. The rocket design was developed by the French National Centre for Space Research (CNES), produced by Arianspace.

The US Air Force’s Outer Space Monitoring Service spotted the explosion, in orbit, of the third stage of a European Ariane 4 space rocket, the 18th US Air Force’s outer space control squadron reported.

According to the report, the third stage of the Ariane 4 rocket exploded in orbit on 22 July; seven fragments were discovered. The stage exploded on its own, rather than due to a collision with some other object.

The rocket launched three satellites into orbit in August 1992: the US-French Topex / Poseidon, South Korea’s Kitsat-1 and France’s S80/T.

Based at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, the 18th US Air Force Space Control Squadron detects, tracks, and identifies all artificial objects in low Earth orbit.

According to the specialised website of the US Air Force spacetrack.org, prior to the destruction, the discarded rocket stage had orbited the Earth for nearly 27 years at an altitude ranging from 1,404 to 1,296 kilometres.