Ariane 4

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Launch of the first Ariane 4, an Ariane 44LP (NASA)

The Ariane 4 is a European launcher from the Ariane series that was developed on behalf of ESA . With 116 launches, 113 of which were successful, it is the most successful Ariane model to date with a reliability of 97.4%. It had its maiden flight on June 15, 1988.

The Ariane 4 rockets were between 55 m and 60 m high and could transport a payload of up to 4.9 t into a geostationary transfer orbit . The takeoff weight was between 243 t and 480 t. The Ariane 4 usually transported two satellites arranged one above the other into orbit . This feature helped the Ariane 4 to get low starting prices and, together with its high reliability, Arianespace to a strong dominance in the satellite transportation business. Arianespace held a world market share of around 60% for several years. On February 15, 2003, Flight 159 was the last launch of an Ariane 4 rocket.

It was only after the last launch of Ariane 4 that it was noticed that it was covering a gap in capacity for launching medium-weight communications satellites , which was now open. That is why the Soyuz in Kourou started in its place at the end of 2010 .

technical features

Ariane 42P with the TOPEX / Poseidon satellite (Kourou, August 10, 1992) (NASA)

Ariane 4 is based on Ariane 3 . So that the rocket can adapt to different heavy payloads and also withstand the trend of constantly increasing payload masses for a longer period of time, it was equipped with a flexible concept of boosters . This should enable her to carry out cost-saving double starts during her entire working life. On the one hand, the solid fuel boosters of the Ariane 3 were stretched to increase their performance, on the other hand, new liquid fuel boosters were derived from the second stage of the Ariane 3, which were significantly larger and heavier than the extended solid fuel boosters and had a higher performance than these. In addition, the first stage has been stretched significantly compared to the Ariane 3 in order to be able to take up significantly more fuel. As a result, the tank capacity was so large that the first stage could only be refueled if it was started with at least four solid fuel boosters, as otherwise the engine power would not be sufficient to allow the heavy rocket to take off. This meant that in versions in which the first stage could not be refueled, the burning time was shorter than normal because the engines had used up the fuel supply in a shorter time. The second and third stages were not changed in the development of Ariane 4 compared to Ariane 3. A new payload fairing with a diameter of 4 m and an equally wide double launch device were introduced for this purpose. The ASAP-4 device (Ariane Structure for Auxiliary Payloads) was available in order to be able to take small satellites with you in addition to the large satellites when payload capacity was still free. It allowed the transport of several satellites weighing up to 60 kg, which could be 60 cm high, 45 cm wide and long. The satellites were allowed to weigh 240 kg together.

During the production time of the Ariane 4, the satellite masses continued to rise above the level originally planned for Ariane 4, so that the Ariane 4 underwent several modifications to increase its performance. In addition to the introduction of lighter materials for cladding, pressurized gas tanks, etc., these almost exclusively concerned the third stage. The third stage (H 10) was first stretched in 1992 to accommodate more fuel (H 10+). When this was no longer sufficient, the fuel mixture was switched to a higher proportion of oxygen in 1994, thus increasing the payload capacity again (H 10 III).

Since the successor Ariane 5 was delayed and the Ariane 4 had to jump into the breach three times after false starts / partial successes, it was produced in significantly larger numbers and longer than originally planned. However, during this time there were no more programs to improve performance. Therefore, in the end, almost all satellites were so heavy that even the most powerful Ariane 4 version (Ariane 44L) could mostly only carry out single launches.


Payload fairing of the Ariane 4 with an ERS satellite (model)

Six missile configurations were available for different heavy payloads. Either solid and / or liquid fuel boosters could be attached to the side of the pure series stage rocket (called Ariane 40) to increase the payload. The following Ariane 4 versions were available:

  • 40 - without booster
  • 42L - two liquid fuel boosters
  • 42P - two solid matter boosters
  • 44L - four liquid fuel boosters
  • 44P - four solid fuel boosters
  • 44LP - two liquid fuel boosters and two solid fuel boosters

Syntax: The first number stands for Ariane 4, the second for the number of boosters and the letters for the type of fuel - L = liquid (French) = liquid, P = poudre (French) = solid.

During the roughly 15 years of operation, numerous improvements were made to the rocket in order to increase its payload. The main focus was on increasing the performance of the last stage. The first flights still used the H10, which was taken over from Ariane 2/3. The tanks were then lengthened by 32 cm, which enabled 400 kg more fuel to be loaded. That stage, H-10 Plus, flew 27 times. From flight V70 - the 32nd take-off - another version of the upper stage was used, in which the mixture became richer in oxygen by moving the intermediate floor. This upper stage, called H-10 III, was used until the end. The fuel load increases from 10.7 to 11.9 t and, together with lighter materials in the VEB, the maximum payload increases from 4,330 to 4,950 kg.

Deleted version

There were plans for an Ariane 43P with three PAP solid fuel boosters. However, the version did not materialize.

Ariane 4 version data

Ariane 40
Data from the Ariane 4 models
Missile type Ariane 40 Ariane 42P Ariane 44P Ariane 42L Ariane 44LP Ariane 44L
Development period of 1982 1982 1982 1982 1982 1982
to 1988 1988 1988 1988 1988 1988
length 55.6 m 55.9 m 56.9 m 55.6 m 58.4 m 58.7 m
diameter 3.8 m 3.8 m 3.8 m 3.8 m 3.8 m 3.8 m
Takeoff mass 245 t 323 t 357 t 367 t 420 t 484 t
Start thrust 2720 ​​kN 3944 kN 5140 kN 4600 kN 5270 kN 5395 kN
Start acceleration 1.32 m / s² 2.43 m / s² 4.62 m / s² 2.75 m / s² 2.77 m / s² 1.37 m / s²
Max. Payload LEO 4600 kg 6000 kg 6500 kg 7000 kg 8000 kg 10200 kg
GTO 2290 kg 2990 kg 3390 kg 3590 kg 4170 kg 4950 kg
booster 0 2 P 4 p 2 L 2 P + 2 L 4 L
First start Jan. 22, 1990 Nov 20, 1990 Apr 4, 1991 March 12, 1993 June 15, 1988 June 5th 1989
Last start Dec 3, 1999 May 4, 2002 25 Sep 2001 Jan. 23, 2002 Nov 27, 2001 Feb 15, 2003
Flights 7th 15th 15th 13 26th 40
False starts 0 1 0 0 1 1
reliability 100% 93% 100% 100% 96% 97.5%
Fuel 1st stage 158 t to 172 t 219 t to 222 t 229 t to 232 t 205 t to 209 t 229 t to 232 t 229 t to 232 t
Burning time 1st stage 150 s 196 s 209 s 181 s 209 s 209 s
Important payloads ERS 1 & 2 TOPEX / Poseidon ISO Astra 1C Hipparcos , Astra 1A , TV-SAT 2 Intelsat 907 , DFS Kopernikus 1


  1. Data Ariane 4
  2. LEO = near-earth orbit, GTO = geostationary transfer orbit
  3. P = solid fuel booster, L = liquid fuel
  4. Bernd Leitenberger: European launchers, Volume 1 From the Diamant to Ariane 4 - Europe's rocky road into orbit. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2009, ISBN 3837095916 page 266

Technical data of the rocket stages used

Rocket stage 1st stage 2nd stage 3rd stage
optional boosters Main engines
Solid Liquid fuel Liquid fuel
Stage name PAP PAL L 220 L 33 H 10 III
Engine Solid propulsion Viking 6 4 × Viking 5C Viking 4B HM-7B
Length approx. 11.5 m 18.6 m 28.4 m 11.6 m 11.05 m
diameter 1.07 m 2.15 m 3.8 m 2.6 m 2.6 m
Dimensions 12.6 t (empty 3.0 t) 43.8 t (empty 4.4 t) see table above max. 39.6 t (empty 3.7 t) 13.05 t (empty 1.35 t)
Thrust on the ground 650 kN 678 kN 4 × 678 kN
Thrust in vacuum 758 kN 4 × 758 kN 800 kN 63.8 kN
Burn time 34 p 143 p see table above 126 ... 135 s 780 s
fuel APCP Nitrogen tetroxide / UH 25 LOX / LH2
  • The H10-III third stage was only used from the end of 1994, before that the weaker H10 and H10 + third stages were in use.



left: mobile assembly tower
middle: launch platform, in the background the water tower of ELA 1
right: launch tower

All Ariane-4 missiles took off from the ELA-2 launch site at the Center Spatial Guyanais in French Guiana . The ELA-2 launch pad consisted of:

  • an assembly building in which the rockets were assembled except for the solid fuel boosters and the payload,
  • a track on which the rockets mounted on one of two transportable launch platforms were driven to the launch site with the launch tower,
  • a mobile assembly tower.

After the rocket had reached the launch site, the assembly tower was moved over it and the payload fairing, which had already been assembled into one unit, and the double launch device with the satellites located in them were placed on the rocket. The solid fuel boosters were also installed here - if provided. The second stage was also refueled in the assembly tower and provided with insulation (the oxidizer would evaporate at over 21 ° C). Then the mobile assembly tower was moved to the side, the first and third stages of the rocket refueled and then the rocket was launched, with the insulation material falling off the second stage.


  • Hans-Martin Fischer: Europe's ARIANE launcher. History and technology for the last start of ARIANE 4. Stedinger, Lemwerder 2004, ISBN 3-927697-32-X .
  • William Huon: Ariane, une épopée européenne. ETAI 2007, ISBN 978-2-7268-8709-7 .
  • Jean-Pierre Philippe: Ariane, horizon 2000. Taillandier, Paris 2000, ISBN 2-87636-045-4 .
  • Bernd Leitenberger: European launch vehicles, Volume 1 From the Diamant to Ariane 4 - Europe's rocky road to orbit. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2009, ISBN 3-8370-9591-6 .
  • Ariane 4. In: Bernd Leitenberger: International launchers: The launchers of Russia, Asia and Europe , Space Edition, 2016, ISBN 978-3-73865-252-9 , pp. 327–333
  • Bernd Leitenberger: Ariane 1–4: History and Technology of the European Success Rocket , Space Edition, 2nd edition from 2014, ISBN 978-3-7357-6172-9

Web links

Commons : Ariane 4  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b The history of Ariane 4
  2. Bernd Leitenberger: European launchers, Volume 1 From the Diamant to Ariane 4 - Europe's rocky road into orbit. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2009, ISBN 3-8370-9591-6 .
  3. EADS-Astrium: Ariane 4, A real success story - technologically, politically and financially , accessed: February 7, 2013, (English) ( Memento from July 27, 2012 on WebCite )
  4. Different authors etc. What is Was Space. Space adventure. ("L Éspace Comment- ça mache - quoi ça sert.") Tessloff Verlag, 1996, ISBN 3-7886-0778-5 .
  5. ^ Ariane 4 Data Sheet. In: Space Launch Report. April 11, 2009, accessed August 10, 2019 .
  6. Ariane 4 User's Manual, Issue No 2, February 1999
  7. Hans-Martin Fischer: Europe's ARIANE launcher. History and technology for the last start of ARIANE 4. Stedinger Verlag, Lemwerder 2004, ISBN 3-927697-32-X .