The European telecommunications satellite ECS-5 is being decommissioned after 12 year's service. The space craft is now expected to be placed in its 'graveyard' orbit of at least 150 km above geostationary altitude by the end of May 2000. This is to ensure no debris remains in an otherwise valuable orbit, reports the European Space Agency (ESA). The ECS series of space craft was the operational successor to ESA's Orbital Test Satellite (OTS) programme in the 1970s. Four ECS satellites (a fifth was lost because of launcher failure) were designed to promote pan-European telecommunications traffic and have provided services in digital telephony, international television distribution, cable television, trunk telephony, specialised services, Europe vision transmissions and mobile services. Some of these services have been extended beyond Europe, says ESA. Two of the ECS spacecraft (ECS-1 and ECS-2) have already been decommissioned and the fourth (ECS-4) is expected to remain in use for the time being, continuing its operations after over 12 years in orbit. The next ESA telecommunications satellite, Artemis, will be launched shortly after the ECS-5 is decommissioned. 'The new spacecraft will carry payloads for data relay between satellites, land mobile communications and to form part of the European system for providing enhanced navigation services,' says ESA.