A series of launch vehicles developed by ESA
(European Space Agency). The decision to develop an autonomous European
access to space was taken at the same meeting, in Brussels in July 1973,
at which ministers also agreed to set up the European Space Agency. The
maiden flight of Ariane 1 on December 24, 1979, marked Europe's arrival
on the international satellite launch market. Changing payload requirements
prompted the development of the Ariane 2 and 3 in the early 1980s, then
the Ariane 4, and most recently the Ariane 5. In March 1980, Arianespace
was formed to handle Ariane production and commercialization.
Europe's first successful commercial launch vehicle, designed to carry two
communications satellites at once. Its development took eight years, and
was based on the design of a replacement rocket for the ELDO
(European Launcher Development Organisation) Europa. Ariane 1 flew 11 times
from 1979 to 1986, failed twice, and launched a number of communications
and other satellites, and the Giotto probe
to Halley's Comet.
Ariane 2 and Ariane 3
Upgrades that provided more lift capability. The first and third stages
of the Ariane 2 and 3 were lengthened from those of their predecessor to
enable a longer burn time, and the engines of stages one, two, and three
were increased in thrust. Ariane 3 had strap-on solid- or liquid-propellant
boosters for additional power and flexibility. Out of a total of 17 launches,
Ariane 2 flew successfully five times between 1987 and 1989 and Ariane 3
eleven times from 1984 to 1989
A family of six medium- to heavy-lift launch vehicles. The Ariane 4 family
builds upon a three-stage liquid-propellant core vehicle, the Ariane 40.
The Ariane 42P adds two solid strap-on motors, the Ariane 42L two liquid
strap-ons. The Ariane 44P and Ariane 44L use four solid and liquid boosters
respectively. The Ariane 44LP uses two solid and two liquid strap on boosters.
The most powerful Ariane 4 variant, the Ariane 44L, can place more than
4,500 kg into GTO (geostationary transfer orbit). Since its inaugural flight
in June 1988, the Ariane 4 has flown more than 100 times and captured almost
half the commercial GTO market.
Originally designed as both a commercial satellite and manned spacecraft
launch vehicle. Ariane 5's 17,500-kg LEO (low Earth orbit) payload capacity
was intended to accommodate the Hermes space plane. After Hermes was cancelled,
Ariane 5 was converted to a strictly commercial launcher. Built around a
central core with a single liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen Vulcan engine,
it uses two large solid rocket boosters to provide a major fraction of its
initial thrust. A small storable-propellant second stage is used for final
velocity and insertion maneuvers. After a failure on its first launch attempt
in 1996 in which the original Cluster
mission was lost, Ariane 5 came through a subsequent test launch successfully
in October 1997 and made its first successful operational flight in December
1999, carrying ESA's XMM-Newton observatory.
Five more successful commercial launches followed through March 2001, but
an upper stage failure during a July 2001 launch left two valuable communications
satellites, including ESA's own ARTEMIS,
in incorrect orbits. All subsequent launches of Ariane 5 have been successful
with the exception of the first launch of the heavy-lift version known as
ECA, with a 10,000-kg payload capability to GTO, on Dec. 11, 2002.
| Ariane 5
||up to 52 m
||LEO: 17,500 kg, GTO: 6,200 kg
rides high (Feb 14, 2005)
AND LAUNCH VEHICLES