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Ariane 5 is an ESA expendable launch system.

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Ariane 5 rocket is a European expendable launch system. Ariane 5 is designed to deliver satellites into Geostationary transfer orbit and to send payloads to Low Earth orbit.

Ariane 5.
Ariane 5.
Ariane 5 Rocket mock-up.
Fact sheet
Function Heavy launch vehicle
Manufacturer EADS/ESA/Arianespace
Country of origin Europe
Height 59 m (193 ft)
Diameter 5.4 m (17.7 ft)
Mass 777,000 kg (1,712,000 lb)
Stages 2
Payload to LEO G:16,000 kg ECA:21,000 kg
Payload to
G:6,800 kg
ECA:10,500 kg
Launch History
Status Active
Launch sites ELA-3, Guiana Space Center
Total launches 33 (G: 22, ECA: 11)
Successes 29 (G: 19, ECA: 10)
Failures 2 (G: 1, ECA: 1)
Partial failures 2 (G)
Maiden flight G: 4 June 1996
ECA: 11 December 2002
Boosters (Stage 0) - P230
No boosters 2
Engines 1 Solid
Thrust 6,470 kN (1,454,510 lbf)
Specific Impulse 275 sec
Burn time 129 seconds
Fuel Solid
First Stage (Ariane 5G)
Engines 1 Vulcain
Thrust 1,114 kN (250,437 lbf)
Specific Impulse 430 sec
Burn time 589 seconds
Fuel LH2/LOX
First Stage (Ariane 5 ECA)
Engines 1 Vulcain 2
Thrust 1,114 kN (250,437 lbf)
Specific Impulse 434 sec
Burn time 650 seconds
Fuel LH2/LOX
Second Stage (Ariane 5G)
Engines 1 Aestus
Thrust 27.4 kN (6,160 lbf)
Specific Impulse 324 sec
Burn time 1,100 seconds
Fuel N2O4/MMH
Second Stage (Ariane 5 ECA)
Engines 1 HM7-B
Thrust 64.7 kN (14,545 lbf)
Specific Impulse 446 sec
Burn time 960 seconds
Fuel LH2/LOX

Ariane 5 is manufactured under the authority of the European Space Agency (ESA) with EADS Astrium Space Transportation as prime contractor, leading a consortium of sub-contractors. The Ariane 5 rocket is operated and marketed by Arianespace as part of the Ariane programme. EADS Astrium Space Transportation builds Ariane 5 rockets in Europe and Arianespace launches them from the Guiana Space Centre.

Ariane 5 succeeded Ariane 4, but does not derive from it directly. Its development took 10 years and cost €7 billion. The ESA originally designed Ariane 5 to launch the manned mini shuttle Hermes, and thus intended it to be "human rated" from the beginning. After the ESA cancelled Hermes, the rocket became a purely commercial launcher.

Two satellites can be mounted using a Sylda carrier. Three main satellites are possible depending on size. Up to eight secondary payloads, usually small experiment packages or minisatellites, can be carried with an ASAP (Ariane Structure for Auxiliary Payloads) platform.

Components of the Ariane 5 rocket.

Ariane 5 rocket.
Ariane 5 Vulcain engine.

Ariane 5’s cryogenic H158 main stage (H173 for Ariane 5 ECA) is called the EPC (Étage Principal Cryotechnique/Cryogenic First Stage). It consists of a large tank 30.5 metres high with two compartments, one for 130 tonnes of Liquid oxygen and one for 25 tonnes of Liquid hydrogen, and a Vulcain engine at the base with thrust of 115 tonnes-force (1.13 meganewtons). This part of the first stage weighs about 15 tonnes when empty.

Attached to the sides are two solid propellant boosters, P238 (P241 for Ariane 5 ECA), each weighing about 277 tonnes full. Each delivers a thrust of about 630 tonnes-force (6.2 MN). These boosters can be recovered with parachutes, like the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters. They may have been retrieved for examination on early missions, but are not reused.

The second stage is on top of the main stage and below the payload. The Ariane 5G used the EPS (Étage à Propergols Stockables/Storable Propellant Stage), which is fueled by Monomethylhydrazine (MMH) and nitrogen tetroxide, where as the Ariane 5 ECA uses the ESC (Étage Supérieur Cryotechnique/Cryogenic Upper Stage), which is fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The payload and all upper stages are covered at launch by the fairing, which splits off once sufficient altitude has been reached.

Variants of the Ariane 5 rocket.

Ariane 5 rocket.
The ATV will be delivered into orbit by an Ariane 5 rocket.

The original version is dubbed Ariane 5G (Generic) with a launch mass of 737 tonnes. Its payload capability to Geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) was initially specified as 5970 kg, but was increased after the qualification flights to 6200 kg.

The Ariane 5G+ had an improved second stage, with a GTO capacity of 6950 kg for a single payload. It flew three times in 2004.

It was replaced in 2005 by the Ariane 5GS, with the same solid boosters as the Ariane 5 ECA and a modified first Stage with a Vulcain 1B engine. It can carry a single payload of 6100 kg.

The Ariane 5 ECA has a GTO launch capacity of 10,000 kg for dual payloads or 10,500 kg for a single payload. This variant uses a new Vulcain 2 first-stage engine, and an ESC-A second stage, powered by an HM-7B engine, weighing 2100 kg and carrying 14,000 kg of cryogenic propellant. The second stage was previously used as the third stage of Ariane 4; in ECA use, the tanks are modified to shorten stage length. The revised Vulcain has a longer, more efficient nozzle with more efficient flow cycle and denser propellant ratio. The new ratio demanded length modifications to the first-stage tanks. Also, the solid booster casings have been lightened with new welds, and packed with more propellant. The ESC-A cryogenic second stage does not improve the performance to Low Earth orbit compared to Ariane 5G, and for this reason the Ariane 5 ECA will not be used to launch the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).

The Ariane 5 ES-ATV will be used to launch the Automated Transfer Vehicle. It includes all the performance improvements of Ariane 5 ECA on EPC and EAP stages while the second stage is the EPS used on Ariane 5GS variants.

Comparable rockets: Delta IV - Atlas V - Chang Zheng 5 - Angara - Proton - Falcon 9 - H-IIB

Future developments of the Ariane 5 rocket.

Ariane 5 ES ATV has been designed for launching the Automated Transfer Vehicle. It consists of the improved Vulcain 2-powered first stage and the upper stage from the Ariane 5G, and can put up to 21,000 kg in LEO.

Ariane 5 ECB development hold.

Ariane 5 ECB was planned to have an ESC-B upper stage using a new Vinci expander cycle type engine. The GTO capacity was to increase to 12,000 kg, but ECB was put on hold due to budget cuts. At an ESA conference (December 2005) in Berlin there was no decision to restart or cancel the program, meaning it is currently on hold. The Vinci engine, which is designed to power the Ariane 5 ECB upper stage, is still being developed, though at a lower pace. Consequently, a restart of the ESC-B program is not impossible at the ESA conference in 2008. The uncertainty regarding the Ariane 5 ECB creates a major commercial weakness for Ariane 5: lacking a reignitable cryogenic engine, unlike all its competitors, it is unable to deliver payloads directly to geostationary orbit.

Launch history of the Ariane 5 rocket.

Ariane launch.
Ariane rocket launch.

Ariane 5's first test flight (Ariane 5 Flight 501) on 4 June 1996 failed, with the rocket self-destructing 37 seconds after launch because of a malfunction in the control software, which was arguably one of the most expensive computer bugs in history. A data conversion from 64-bit floating point to 16-bit signed integer value had caused a processor trap (operand error). The floating point number had a value too large to be represented by a 16-bit signed integer. Efficiency considerations had led to the disabling of the software handler (in Ada code) for this trap, although other conversions of comparable variables in the code remained protected.

The second test flight, L502 on 30 October 1997 was a partial failure. The Vulcain nozzle caused a roll problem, leading to premature shutdown of the core stage. The upper stage operated successfully but could not reach the intended orbit.

A subsequent test flight on 21 October 1998 proved successful and the first commercial launch occurred on 10 December 1999 with the launch of the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory satellite.

Another partial failure occurred on 12 July 2001, with the delivery of two satellites into an incorrect orbit, at only half the height of the intended GTO. The ESA Artemis telecommunications satellite was able to reach its intended orbit on 31 January 2003, through the use of its experimental ion propulsion system.

The next launch did not occur until 1 March 2002, when the Envisat environmental satellite successfully reached an orbit 800 km above the Earth in the 11th launch. At 8111 kg, it was the heaviest single payload to date.

The first launch of the ECA variant on 11 December 2002 ended in failure when a main booster problem caused the rocket to veer off-course, forcing its self-destruction three minutes into the flight. Its payload of two communications satellites (Stentor and Hot Bird 7), valued at about EUR 630 million, was lost in the ocean. The fault was determined to have been caused by a leak in coolant pipes allowing the nozzle to overheat. After this failure, Arianespace SA delayed the expected January 2003 launch for the Rosetta mission to 26 February 2004, but this was again delayed to early March 2004 due to a minor fault in the foam that protects the cryogenic tanks on the Ariane 5.

On 27 September 2003 the last Ariane 5 G boosted three satellites (including the first European lunar probe, SMART-1), in Flight 162. On 18 July 2004 an Ariane 5 G+ boosted what was at the time the heaviest telecommunication satellite ever, Anik F2, weighing almost 6,000 kg.

The first successful launch of the Ariane 5 ECA took place on 12 February 2005. The payload consisted of the XTAR-EUR military communications satellite, a 'SLOSHSAT' small scientific satellite and a MaqSat B2 payload simulator. The launch had been originally scheduled for October 2004, but additional testing and the military requiring a launch at that time (of an Helios 2A observation satellite) delayed the attempt.

On 11 August 2005, the first Ariane 5GS (featuring the Ariane 5 ECA's improved solid motors) boosted Thaïcom-4/iPStar-1, the heaviest telecommunications satellite to date at 6505 kg http://www.skyrocket.de/space/doc_sdat/ipstar-1.htm, into orbit.

On 13 October 2005, the second Ariane 5GS boosted a dual payload to orbit. This consisted of Syracuse 3A, a French military satellite, and Galaxy 15 for PanAmSat.

On 16 November 2005, the third Ariane 5 ECA launch (the second successful ECA launch) took place. It carried a dual payload consisting of Spaceway-F2 for DirecTV and Telkom-2 for PT Telekomunikasi of Indonesia. This was the rocket's heaviest dual payload to date, at more than 8000 kg.

On 21 December 2005, the third Ariane 5GS boosted another dual payload to orbit. This payload consisted of INSAT 4A for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), and MSG-2 for the European organization Eumetsat.

On 11 March 2006, the fourth Ariane 5 ECA launch boosted another dual payload to orbit. This payload consisted of Hot Bird 7A for Eutelsat (a replacement for the Hot Bird 7 satellite lost in the first Ariane 5 ECA launch), and SPAINSAT, a Spanish government telecommunications satellite for HISDESAT.

On 27 May 2006, an Ariane 5 ECA rocket set a new commercial payload lifting record of 8.2 tonnes. The dual-payload consisted of the Thaicom 5 and Satmex 6 satellites. [2]

On 11 August the JCSat 10 and Syracuse 3B comsats were launched by an Arian 5 ECA.

On 13 October the DirecTV-9S and Optus D1 comsats were launched, along with the LDREX-2 technology demonstration satellite.

On 8 December 2006 the WildBlue-1 and AMC-18 were placed into orbit by the Ariane 5 ECA version, making the launch the fifth Ariane 5 ECA launch in 2006.

On 4 May 2007 the Ariane 5 ECA set another new commercial record, lifting into transfer orbit the Astra 1L and Galaxy 17 communication satellites with a combined weight of 8.6 tonnes, and a total payload weight of 9.4 tonnes. [3]

Ariane 5 flights.

Date & Time (UTC)FlightModelSerial numberPayloadResult
04.06.1996 12:34:06 V-89 Ariane-5G 501 Cluster Failure
30.10.1997 13:43:00 V-101 Ariane-5G 502 MaqSat H & TEAMSAT, MaqSat B, YES Partial failure
21.10.1998 16:37:21 V-112 Ariane-5G 503 MaqSat 3, ARD Success
10.12.1999 14:32:07 V-119 Ariane-5G 504 XMM-Newton Success
21.03.2000 23:28:19 V-128 Ariane-5G 505 INSAT 3B, AsiaStar Success
14.09.2000 22:54:07 V-130 Ariane-5G 506 Astra 2B, GE 7 Success
16.11.2000 01:07:07 V-135 Ariane-5G 507 PAS 1R, Amsat P3D, STRV 1C, STRV 1D Success
20.12.2000 00:26:00 V-138 Ariane-5G 508 Astra 2D, GE 8 (Aurora 3), LDREX Success
08.03.2001 22:51:00 V-140 Ariane-5G 509 Eurobird 1, BSat 2a Success
12.07.2001 22:58:00 V-142 Ariane-5G 510 Artemis, BSat 2b Partial failure
01.03.2002 01:07:59 V-145 Ariane-5G 511 Envisat Success
05.07.2002 23:22:00 V-153 Ariane-5G 512 Stellat 5, N-Star c Success
28.08.2002 22:45:00 V-155 Ariane-5G 513 Atlantic Bird 1, MSG 1, MFD Success
11.12.2002 22:22:00 V-157 Ariane-5ECA 517 Hot Bird 7, Stentor, MFD A, MFD B Failure
09.04.2003 22:52:19 V-160 Ariane-5G 514 Insat 3A, Galaxy 12 Success
11.06.2003 22:38:15 V-161 Ariane-5G 515 Optus C1, BSat 2c Success
27.09.2003 23:14:46 V-162 Ariane-5G 516 Insat 3E, eBird 1, SMART-1 Success
02.03.2004 07:17:44 V-158 Ariane-5G+ 518 Rosetta Success
18.07.2004 00:44:00 V-163 Ariane-5G+ 519 Anik F2 Success
18.12.2004 16:26:00 V-165 Ariane-5G+ 520 Helios 2A, Essaim 1, 2, 3 and 4, PARASOL, Nanosat 01 Success
12.02.2005 21:03:00 V-164 Ariane-5ECA 521 XTAR-EUR, Maqsat B2, Sloshsat Success
11.08.2005 08:20:00 V-166 Ariane-5GS 523 Thaïcom 4-iPStar 1 Success
13.10.2005 22:32:00 V-168 Ariane-5GS 524 Syracuse 3A, Galaxy 15 Success
16.11.2005 23:46:00 V-167 Ariane-5ECA 522 Spaceway F2, Telkom 2 Success
21.12.2005 22:33:00 V-169 Ariane-5GS 525 INSAT 4A, MSG 2, MFD C Success
11.03.2006 22:32:50 V-170 Ariane-5ECA 527 Spainsat, MFD C, MFD C, Hot Bird 7A Success
26.05.2006 21:08:50 V-171 Ariane-5ECA 529 Satmex 6, Thaicom 5 Success
11.08.2006 22:15:00 V-172 Ariane-5ECA 531 JCSat 10, Syracuse 3B Success
13.10.2006 20:56:00 V-173 Ariane-5ECA 533 DirecTV-9S, Optus D1, LDREX-2 Success
08.12.2006 22:08:00 V-174 Ariane-5ECA 534 WildBlue 1, AMC 18 Success
11.03.2007 22:03 V-175 Ariane-5ECA 535 Skynet-5A, Insat-4B Success
04.05.2007 22:29 V-176 Ariane-5ECA 536 Astra 1L, Galaxy 17 Success

Upcoming flights of the Ariane 5 rocket.

Date (UTC)FlightModelSerial numberPayloadResult
06.2007 Ariane-5GS 526 Spaceway F3, BSAT-3A Planned
11.2007 Ariane-5ES-ATV 528 Automated Transfer Vehicle Planned

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