Ariane 5

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Ariane 5ES with ATV 4 on the way to the launch pad. The refueling arms are not used in this version without the cryogenic upper stage.
Ariane 5ECA with Arabsat 5C and SES-2 on the way to the launch pad. The two arms for refueling the cryogenic second stage are in place.

The Ariane 5 is a European launcher from the Ariane series that was developed on behalf of ESA and has been in use since 1996. It is the most powerful European launcher and enables heavy payloads to be put into orbit .

Concept and Applications

During the conference in The Hague in November 1987, the ESA Council of Ministers approved the development of a first European heavy-duty carrier in order to be prepared for the ever-growing telecommunications satellites . At this point in time, ESA could already look back on a long, successful use of the Ariane series .

The goal in the development of the Ariane 5 was a 60% higher payload for the geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) with a total weight of up to 6.8 tons at only 90% of the costs of an Ariane 4 4L. This corresponds to a reduction in the cost per unit mass of 44%.

The European space glider Hermes should represent a further area of ​​application of the Ariane 5 . The space glider should be able to be launched with its own European rocket. Hermes would have been launched by the rocket on a parabolic orbit , which would have lifted the space shuttle into near-Earth orbit with its own propulsion . However, the project was discontinued in 1993. During the development of the NASA X-38 Crew Return Vehicle , the Ariane 5 was under discussion for a further developed variant of this spacecraft. In 2014, ESA started thinking about launching the US spacecraft Dream Chaser , which is currently under development, with the Ariane 5.

The construction of the Ariane 5 with a deliberately kept very low number of engines was intended to achieve a very high level of reliability. Although Hermes was never built, manned use of Ariane 5 was not ruled out. The target reliability of the rocket was 99% for the single-stage variant, an order of magnitude higher than that of the Ariane 4, which had only been developed for satellite launches and had many engines. For the two-stage variant, 98.5% were targeted. The disappointment was correspondingly great when the Ariane 5 suffered a false start on its first flight, while its predecessor successfully continued to fly.

Today, Ariane 5 is mainly used to launch communications satellites into geostationary orbit.

Development and sales

Ariane 5 was developed by space companies from the ESA member states on behalf of ESA. Each member state that wanted to participate in the project made financial resources available. The industry of the respective state then received development contracts from the ESA to the value of the development contribution paid by the state. ESA had the project carried out by the French space agency CNES , which took on the technical management, financial management and the distribution of orders to the individual companies in the partner countries. The start-up company Arianespace therefore had to order the individual parts of the rocket from the companies selected by ESA and have them assembled by the companies selected for this purpose.

After the false start on the first flight of the Ariane 5 ECA in 2002, this complicated system was abolished and EADS Space Transportation (later EADS subsidiary Astrium Space Transportation, now Airbus Defense and Space) was appointed the main contractor. Airbus Defense and Space is now assembling the missiles completely from the individual parts manufactured by it and the partner companies and is responsible for the functionality of the complete missiles. It delivers the missiles to its customer Arianespace after final acceptance.

ESA and CNES were directly responsible for the first three launches, later Arianespace took over the marketing. The rocket will also be offered to international customers for launching their satellites for a fee (~ $ 180 million). Almost all launches are made by these customers, whereas ESA only launches payload (s) with the Ariane 5 about 1–2 times per year on average.

The development costs of the Ariane 5 were approximately 5.8 billion euros (6.7 billion US dollars). The director of the Ariane program was the German aerospace engineer Horst Holsten .


The basic version of Ariane 5, optimized for Hermes, is called Ariane 5G (générique) . It consists of:

  • two solid fuel boosters (designation EAP P238). These boosters each consist of three segments, are around 30 m long (24.75 m segment length), have a diameter of 3.05 m, a wall thickness of 8.1 mm and each hold 238 tons of solid propellant. The top segment of the booster is the shortest and is already filled in the Italian Colleferro. In contrast to the other two longer segments (which are only filled at the launch site), it is designed as a star burner. It therefore delivers a particularly large amount of thrust at takeoff, which is greatly reduced after the tips of the star have burned off. The middle and lower segments, on the other hand, are designed as internal burners. Their thrust increases slowly as they burn from the inside out, as the burned area increases over time. The segments were put together until 2004. Each connection was sealed with an O-ring and secured with 180 shear bolts, 24 mm in diameter. Today (first used in 2006) they are vacuum welded in an electron beam welding system. The boosters have a given, constantly changing thrust profile with an average of 4400 kN of thrust, which increases to a maximum of 6650 kN. The burn time is 130 seconds, after which they are thrown off. The APCP fuel consists of 14% hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB), 18% aluminum powder and 68% ammonium perchlorate . MT Aerospace AG in Augsburg currently produces the booster housings from steel, but it has also produced technology demonstrators from carbon fiber reinforced composite material, the use of which would mean a significant reduction in weight and costs. In some cases, for quality control purposes, the boosters are equipped with a two-stage parachute return system in the nose cap, which enables them to be rescued from the sea after use.
  • a very large main stage (designation EPC H158). Thanks to its extremely lightweight aluminum construction, its curb weight is only 12.5 tonnes. The material is so thin that the rocket would collapse under its own weight if the step was raised empty. It only gains stability when the fuel or pressurized gas is filled in. It is 30.5 m high, 5.4 m in diameter and holds 158 tons of fuel. This stage has only one engine, which by burning liquid hydrogen and oxygen delivers a thrust of 1180 kN for 605 seconds and thus does not generate enough thrust to let the rocket take off without the thrust of the boosters. The main stage is produced by Airbus Defense and Space (formerly EADS Astrium-Space Transportation) in Les Mureaux , France . The main stage tanks are supplied from the neighboring Cryospace factory . The main stage Vulcain engine is produced by a consortium of European engine companies led by SEP .

When the rocket starts, only the main engine ignites. After the computers have checked it for functionality and the engine has been run up to full power, the solid fuel boosters are ignited after seven seconds and the rocket takes off. If problems with the main engine are found before take-off, it can be switched off without any damage. In contrast, the solid fuel boosters cannot be switched off after ignition, which explains this ignition sequence.

EPS upper level
  • The control unit, which is housed in a ring structure and controls and monitors the flight of the Ariane 5, is located on the main stage. The space glider Hermes was originally supposed to sit directly on this ring and, after being separated from the main stage, reach the orbit with the help of its own engines.
  • So that the Ariane 5 can also bring satellites into the GTO (geotransfer orbit), a very small upper stage (designation EPS L9.7 ) was developed, which is attached in the ring of the control unit. This stage holds 9.7 tons of fuel, which is housed in four spherical tanks. It has a pressurized gas powered engine that burns monomethylhydrazine with dinitrogen tetroxide for a burning time of up to 1100 seconds . The compressed gas helium is housed in two smaller spherical tanks. It is also produced by Airbus Defense and Space (formerly EADS-Astrium Space Transportation) in Bremen . The Aestus engine is supplied from the Airbus Defense and Space (formerly EADS-Astrium Space Transportation) plant in Ottobrunn .
A long payload fairing wraps the ATV 4 on top of its Ariane 5

Payload fairings

There are three payload fairings of different lengths available, which are manufactured by RUAG Space in Switzerland . Thanks to a pyrotechnic separation system, the payload fairings split lengthways as well as along the lower edge and are thrown off when the air resistance at a height of approx. 110 km can no longer damage the cargo.

  • The short payload fairing is 12.7 m long. Their usable volume is 125 m³ and can be used together with all double starting devices.
  • The medium-length payload fairing is 13.8 m long. Their usable volume is 145 m³. It can be used together with the SYLDA5 double starting device.
  • The long payload fairing is 17 m long. Their usable volume is 200 m³. It can be used together with the SYLDA5 double starting device.
  • RUAG developed an even longer payload fairing for the Ariane 5 ME with a length of 18.9 m for use from 2017. With the development of the Ariane 5 ME discontinued in December 2014 (see below), there is no longer any need for this.
  • Due to the increasing volume of geostationary satellites, Arianespace has proposed extending the payload fairing of the Ariane ECA. The French government followed the suggestion and approved € 25 million for the development of a 2 meter longer payload fairing. It should be available from 2015 [obsolete] , but it has not yet been used.

There are also spacer rings, which are also manufactured by RUAG Space and can be used to extend all available cladding. The extension is 50 to 200 cm, which corresponds to a volume of 8 to 33 m³. These rings are installed below the payload fairing and remain on the missile.

Double launchers

In order to be able to put two larger satellites into orbit during one launch, Ariane 5 uses double launchers , two different types of which are used. Each of the two types is available in several versions. They are manufactured by Airbus Defense and Space (formerly EADS- Astrium Space Transportation ) in Bremen.

The first type, called Speltra, is a cylinder that is open at the bottom and is 5.4 m in diameter, the same diameter as the rocket. The Speltra is placed over the satellite that was previously attached to the upper stage of Ariane 5. Then the second satellite is attached to the Speltra, over which the payload fairing is attached. The payload fairing sits on the Speltra. The Speltra is available in two different lengths for satellites of different sizes.

  • The short Speltra is 5.7 m long and has a usable volume of 75 m³.
  • The long Speltra is 7 m long and has a usable volume of 100 m³.

The advantage of the Speltra is that the satellites transported in it may have the same maximum width as the satellites that are transported directly under the payload fairing.

The second type, called SYLDA5, is a cylinder that is open at the bottom and has an inner diameter of 4.6 m and is located inside the payload fairing. It is made of CFRP and can be built easily, as it does not have to endure any aerodynamic forces. Six versions of different lengths from 4.9 to 6.4 m in length and 50 to 65 m³ of usable volume are available. The second satellite is mounted on the SYLDA5 and can only fill the remaining space available in the payload fairing.

The enlargement of the SYLDA5 due to the increasing satellite volumes was also suggested by Arianespace.

The SYLDA5 was derived from a similar structure in Ariane 4 and introduced because most of the satellites are not so wide that the Speltra is needed. The weight saved compared to the Speltra fully benefits the payload, because the double launch device is only launched after the upper satellite has been launched into orbit. Since the SYLDA5 allows heavy payloads, only these have been used (since the end of the test flights).

Adapter for additional payloads

Finally, there is the ASAP-5 ( engl. Ariane Structure for auxiliary payloads , dt. About, Ariane structure for additional payload '), one of EADS ASTRIUM developed and built device for mini- or microsatellites. It is also based on a similar structure to Ariane 4, but (as with Ariane 4) it is rarely used (so far on flights V135, V138, V165, V187 and without any satellites to be transported as ballast on V193). In the case of double starts, it is installed in or above the Speltra / SYLDA5, otherwise below the primary payload. However, Arianespace no longer uses the ASAP-5, probably because the customers of the main payloads are against the transport of additional small satellites.


Section through the third Ariane 5G with the Speltra double launch device

Before the first flight of Ariane 5, it was assumed that it would only launch satellites. At the time, Ariane 4 dominated around half of the global commercial satellite launch market and the aim was to expand this position with Ariane 5. In addition, the mass of commercial communications satellites increased steadily, so that it was feared that Ariane 5 would no longer be able to carry out double launches soon after its market launch. That is why the ESA decided on a performance enhancement program before the first launch. Initially, a significant expansion of the EPS upper stage was planned so that it could hold more fuel. A new turbo pump-assisted engine should also receive this modified level. However, this proposal failed because Germany blocked development costs.

During the ESA Ministerial Conference in Toulouse in October 1995 , the expansion program Ariane-5E (Evolution) was approved in order to secure the market for the increasing payloads in the telecommunications sector. The more powerful carriers Ariane 5 ECA, Ariane 5 ECB and Ariane 5 ES were planned.

Until these were available, two slightly modified versions, Ariane 5G + and Ariane 5GS, had been developed that had a slightly increased payload capacity and were more optimized for the requirements of spacecraft and satellite launches.

Ariane 5G +

The only difference between the Ariane 5G + and the Ariane 5G was that the EPS stage was slightly modified to increase the amount of fuel by 250 kg. Other changes have also been made to make the stage re-ignitable and allow longer free-flight phases. During the free flight phase, the new upper stage, called EPS L10, rotates with the payload on it around its longitudinal axis and thus distributes the solar radiation more evenly on the surface. This prevents one side of the stage and the payload from overheating and the other side from cooling down, as otherwise a temperature difference of 200  K could have occurred between the two sides. In space travel, this process is known as “barbecue mode” (English for “grill mode”).

Ariane 5GS

Section through an Ariane 5 GS

In addition to the re-ignitable EPS-L10 upper stage, the Ariane 5GS also had new solid fuel boosters. These were developed for (and at the expense) of Arianespace as part of the Performance 2000 program. The aim of the program was to increase the payload capacity of Ariane 5 through small improvements and was launched before ESA's performance improvement program. The EAP-P241 boosters have an increased fuel load of 3 tons in the uppermost of the three segments and an extended thrust nozzle made of lighter material to improve thrust generation at great heights and to reduce weight. This increases the average thrust to 5060 kN and the maximum thrust to 7080 kN.

The main stage, adapted from the Evolution program, was slightly heavier and used a Vulcain-1B engine, a modified version of the Vulcain-1 engine of the Ariane 5G and 5G +. However, this combination delivers so much less power than the old main stage with Vulcain 1 that the reinforced boosters cannot fully compensate for this loss of power. From an economic point of view, however, this seemed to be the “better” solution than continuing to manufacture the old main stage.

Ariane 5 ECA

At 10.9 tonnes (initially 9.6 tonnes), the Ariane 5 ECA can carry significantly heavier payloads than its predecessor versions. The addition ECA stands for Evolution Cryotechnique Type A . It has a modernized first stage with the new Vulcain-2 engine and the new cryogenic upper stage ESC-A ( Etage Supérieur Cryotechnique Type A - cryogenic upper stage type A).

The modernized main stage with the newly designed, boosted Vulcain-2 engine now contains 173 tons of fuel due to a shift in the intermediate tank floor and is called EPC H173.

Section through an Ariane 5 ECA

The new upper stage ESC-A H14.4 uses the HM-7B engine used in the third stage of the Ariane 4 , which delivers a higher thrust than the previous upper stage and cannot be re-ignited. This allows heavier payloads and more fuel to be carried. The fuel load is now 14.6 tons. By using hydrogen as a combustion carrier, the payload capacity of the Ariane 5 ECA is 9.6 tonnes for a single launch and 9.1 tonnes for a double launch. It is thus considerably higher than that of the previous Ariane 5, with only slightly increased production costs. The Ariane 5 ECA is to achieve a payload of 9.2 tons by the end of 2010 and 9.5 tons by the end of 2011 with double launches thanks to performance increases. The tank for the oxidizer ( oxygen ), which is also almost unchanged from the Ariane 4 except for an extension , is surrounded by the new, almost hemispherical fuel tank for the hydrogen. This has the shape of a thick spherical shell, so that there is a space between it and the oxygen tank. The step has a diameter of 5.4 meters. The control unit is now located on the upper level and is structurally lighter than the version used in the EPS upper level because it no longer has to carry the level that sits in it. The ESC-A stage also includes the part of the intermediate stage adapter that encloses the thrust nozzle of the HM-7B engine. With the stage separation, this part of the upper stage remains on the EPC to reduce weight and only the actual upper stage flies on. The Ariane 5 ECA was therefore primarily developed as an interim solution until the appearance of the now canceled Ariane 5 ECB for starts in geostationary transfer orbits (GTO). It will remain in use until Ariane 6 completely replaces it after a phase of parallel use.

The first flight of the Ariane 5 ECA on December 11, 2002 also failed. A structural failure of the nozzle of the Vulcain-2 engine was found to be the cause. One consequence of the failure was that the start of the Rosetta mission, which was planned for January 13, 2003 , had to be postponed because the risk of a total loss was now assessed as too high. In the modified Ariane 5 ECA after the false start, an improved Vulcain-2 engine is used, in which the nozzle has been strengthened and slightly shortened. In addition, the coolant throughput was increased and it received special thermal protection made of zirconium oxide . The improved engines were tested in a new DLR vacuum chamber in Lampoldshausen , also because of the malfunction during the first flight . A large part of the money required for the requalification of the Ariane 5 ECA is said to have been spent on the construction of these test stands.

A framework contract for 30 Ariane 5s (PA production batches) with a total value of three billion euros was signed in May 2004. It should make it possible to rationalize production and to strengthen the Ariane 5 ECA against the Russian competition. The successful second launch of the Ariane 5 ECA took place on February 12, 2005. Following a letter of intent from the Paris Air Show 2007, Arianespace ordered a further 35 Ariane 5 ECAs (production lot PB) for over 4 billion euros from the main contractor EADS-Astrium . These were used from the end of 2010 after the Ariane 5 of the PA production lot had been used up. The delivery of a further 18 Ariane 5 ECAs was agreed with EADS-Astrium in December 2013. These should be used from 2017 to 2019. The order value of the agreement was over 2 billion euros. [outdated]

Ariane 5 ES ATV

Section through an Ariane 5ES with ATV

This version of Ariane 5 was used to transport the European supply ship Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to the ISS . The pressurized ATV provided cargo, water, nitrogen, oxygen and fuel. It also raised the space station to counteract the descent through the braking effect of the atmosphere, and transported waste away.

In total, the Ariane 5 ES ATV was able to transport up to 21 tons of payload into a near-earth orbit. The first stage of the rocket was the EPC H173 with the improved Vulcain-2 engine and the second stage was a version of the re-ignitable EPS upper stage - the EPS-V - on which the ATV was attached, which was specially modified for use with the ATV.

The EPS-V upper stage was ignited a total of three times in a typical flight. The first ignition took place after the first stage had burned out. The second stage was then switched off and a ballistic flight phase began in elliptical transfer orbit. In the apogee , the engine was ignited a second time in order to switch to an approximately circular low earth orbit at this altitude. With the third ignition, the stage after the disconnection of the ATV was decelerated so far that it entered an elliptical earth orbit, the perigee of which was in the atmosphere. When it passed through the perigee, it then burned up in the earth's atmosphere.

After being separated from the EPS-V upper stage, the ATV lifted its orbit with its own engines to the ISS orbit.

Ariane 5 ES Galileo

This version was a version of the Ariane 5 ES ATV adapted for the transport of satellites in medium-high circular orbits. It brought four satellites of the European satellite navigation system Galileo at once into their 23,616 km high orbit with an inclination of 56 ° to the equator. The Ariane 5 ES Galileo consisted of the EPC-H173 first stage with a Vulcain-2 engine, two EAP-241 boosters and a re-ignitable EPS upper stage with the AESTUS engine that was specially adapted for missions with Galileo satellites.

The four satellites were mounted on a launch bracket for transport. All satellites were in the same plane at an angle of 90 ° to each other on four sides of the bracket. After reaching orbit, they were pushed sideways in pairs before the upper stage was deactivated.

EADS-Astrium was commissioned to develop the Ariane 5 ES Galileo on February 2, 2012. Originally planned for 2014, the first flight with flight number VA233 took place on November 17, 2016.

Planning an Ariane 5 ME (Ariane 5 ECB)

Section through an Ariane 5ME

The costs for a second test flight of the Ariane 5 ECA and the improvement of the launcher meant that the development of the even more powerful upper stage ESC-B for the Ariane 5 ECB version was discontinued in 2003 for the time being. After the successful second test flight of the Ariane 5 ECA in February 2005, EADS wanted to abandon the development of the Ariane 5 ECB because it estimated that the GTO payload capacity of the Ariane 5 ECB, which was then planned at 12 tons, exceeded the requirements of the commercial satellite launch market and therefore the relatively high development costs would not be economically justifiable. EADS revised this opinion in February 2006, and the head of EADS Space Transportation spoke of a mistake in an interview with the FTD . However, since ESA funded the development of Ariane 5, the final decision on these proposals was taken by the ESA Council of Ministers. At the meeting of the ESA Council of Ministers in December 2005, no official decision was made on the Ariane 5 ECB. So the development of the ESC-B upper level was suspended. Instead, project studies were decided on a future European carrier system. At that time it was assumed that these studies lead to the development of a new carrier system with the intermediate step of the ESC-B upper level for the Ariane 5. At the meeting of the ESA Council of Ministers in December 2008, no decision was made on the Ariane 5 ECB either, but the Vinci engine was further developed. The final decision on Ariane 5 ECB should be made at the 2011 Ministerial Council.

In December 2009, however, ESA placed an order with EADS-Astrium for pre-development work on the new upper stage and other modernizations. This work was called "Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (Ariane 5 ME)". As a result of the multi-year delays, the cost of developing the ESC-B upper level rose sharply. When development was halted in 2003, 699 million euros were earmarked for it. The draft for the resumption was based on 1.1 billion euros. In addition, there would have been the funds that were used between 2003 and 2011. Indeed, at the meeting of the ESA Council of Ministers on 20-21 November 2012, however, only decided to continue the development of the Ariane 5 ME and to compare it with studies of the Ariane 6 in order to be able to use as many of the developments as possible for both carriers. In 2014, the Ariane 5 ME and Ariane 6 programs should finally be launched together. For this purpose, EADS-Astrium received an order worth 108 million euros from ESA in January 2013 to determine the exact construction method of Ariane 6 and to continue work on Ariane 5 ME. At the ESA Ministerial Council in early December 2014, the development of an Ariane 6 was approved, the concept of which would have been between the Ariane 5 ME and the previously planned Ariane 6.

Comparison table

Ariane 5 data
Missile type Ariane 5G Ariane 5G + Ariane 5GS Ariane 5ES Ariane 5ECA Ariane 5ME
status retired active painted
Development period from 1987 1995 1995 1995 1995 1995
until 1996 2003 2005 2007 2002 Demolished in 2014
length 54 m 54 m 54 m 59 m 53 m 62 m
diameter 5.4 m 5.4 m 5.4 m 5.4 m 5.4 m 5.4 m
Takeoff mass 750 t 750 t 753 t 775 t 777 t 798 t
Start thrust 11,500 kN 11,500 kN 11,629 kN 11,800 kN 11,800 kN 11,800 kN
Start acceleration 5.55 m / s² 5.55 m / s² 5.66 m / s² 5.45 m / s² 5.41 m / s² 5.01 m / s²
Max. Payload LEO 18,000 kg 19,000 kg 20,000 kg 20,250 kg 16,000 kg 21,000 kg
GTO 6,100 kg 6,300 kg 6,500 kg 8,000 kg 10,900 kg 12,500 kg
booster 2 p 2 p 2 p 2 p 2 p 2 p
First start June 4th 1996 March 2, 2004 Aug 11, 2005 March 9, 2008 Dec 11, 2002 (no start)
Last start 27 Sep 2003 Dec 18, 2004 Dec 18, 2009 July 25, 2018 in action (no start)
Flights 16 3 6th 8th 74 0
False starts 1 + 2 partial successes 0 0 0 1 + 1 partial success 0
reliability 81% 100% 100% 100% 97% -


  1. Data Ariane 5
  2. LEO = near-earth orbit, GTO = transfer orbit to geostationary orbit
  3. Arianespace: Flight VA237: On mission that boosts global connectivity for ViaSat and Eutelsat, the 79th successful launch by Arianespace's Ariane 5 sets a new performance record and orbits its first all-electric satellite , June 1, 2017, accessed June 7, 2017 (English)
  4. P = solid fuel booster
Component data
Missile type Ariane 5G Ariane 5G + Ariane 5GS Ariane 5ES Ariane 5ECA Ariane 5ME
status retired active painted
Solid fuel booster
Stage name EAP P238 EAP P241
Engine P238 P241
Length (m) 31 31
Diameter (m) 3 3
Mass ( t ) 270 273
Thrust Ø (max.) ( KN ) 4400 (6650) 5060 (7080)
Burning time ( s ) 130 140
fuel NH 4 ClO 4 / Al , HTPB (solid) NH 4 ClO 4 / Al , HTPB (solid)
Main level
Stage name EPC H158 EPC H158 modified EPC H173
Engine Vulcain 1 Vulcain 1B Vulcain 2
Length (m) 30.5 30.5 30.5
Diameter (m) 5.4 5.4 5.4
Mass ( t ) 170.5 (empty 12.2) 170.5 (empty 12.5) 185.5 (empty 14.1)
Thrust on the ground ( kN ) 815 815 960
Thrust vacuum ( kN ) 1180 1180 1350
Burning time ( s ) 605 605 540
fuel LOX / LH 2 LOX / LH 2 LOX / LH 2
Upper school
Stage name EPS L9.7 EPS L10 ESC-A H14.4 ESC-B H28.2
Engine Aestus Aestus HM-7B Vinci
Length (m) 3.4 3.4 4.7 ?
Diameter (m) 3.96 * 3.96 * 5.4 5.4
Mass ( t ) 10.9 (empty 1.2) 11.2 (empty 1.2) approx. 19.2 (empty approx. 4.6) (Fuel 28.2)
Thrust max. ( KN ) 27 27 64.8 180
Burning time ( s ) 1100 1170 970 610 (+30 at 130 kN thrust)
fuel N 2 O 4 / CH 6 N 2 N 2 O 4 / CH 6 N 2 LOX / LH 2 LOX / LH 2
Use for: Basic version optimized for Hermes, limited free-flight phases, limited reignition. Improved upper level can now have long free-flight phases and is re-ignitable. As a result, inter alia. Space probe starts possible. Modified, less powerful main stage, same type of upper stage, more modern, more powerful boosters. Reinforced structure for the heavy ATV . Optimized for long use and many ignitions. New upper stage cannot be re-ignited, no free-flight phases. Developed as a temporary solution until the appearance of Ariane ECB. Optimized for starts in the GTO . New upper stage, state-of-the-art engine, long free-flight phases, re-ignitable. For all missions up to 5 hours duration.

* Sits in the instrument unit with a diameter of 5.4 m

  • ELA-3 = L'Ensemble de Lancement Ariane = third starting position of the Ariane
  • EAP = Étage d'Accélération à Poudre = solid fuel booster
  • EPC = Étage Principal Cryotechnique = Cryogenic main level
  • EPS = Étage à Propergols Stockables = upper level with storable fuel
  • ESC-A = Étage Supérieur Cryotechnique de type A = Cryogenic upper level of type A
  • ESC-B = Étage Supérieur Cryotechnique de type B = Cryogenic upper level of type B

Launch facilities

Ariane 5 launch site

All Ariane 5 launches will take place from the Center Spatial Guyanais in Kourou , French Guiana . A separate launch site - ELA-3  - with associated facilities for launch preparations was set up for the launch of Ariane 5 in order to enable up to ten launches per year. The entire preparations for launch take 21 days. In order to keep the effort at the launch site low, in contrast to the Ariane 4, the payload is built into the rocket six days before the launch. The missile is carried to the ramp approximately 30 hours before takeoff.

The simplified launch concept means that large launch ramps are not required to supply the rocket with fuel. In addition, the susceptibility to malfunctions before the start is reduced.

There are four main buildings in the area designated for take-off preparations:

  • The solid fuel boosters are installed and checked in the Bâtiment d'Intégration Propulseur (BIP);
  • In the Bâtiment d'Intégration Lanceur (BIL) the main stage is set up on the movable starting table and the boosters are attached;
  • In the Bâtiment d'Assemblage Final (BAF) the payload devices are assembled and erected, the tanks of the upper stage are filled (not in the case of cryogenic upper stages) and the final electrical checks are carried out;
  • The launch operations take place in the launch center Center de Lancement n ° 3 (CDL-3).

In 2000 a second movable launch table was added to the launch complex. In 2001 a new facility (S5) was built on 3,000 m² to handle up to four payloads at the same time. Envisat was the first satellite to use them.

Start preparations and start in the geostationary transfer orbit (GTO)

The preparations for the launch begin with the main stage, the upper stage and the payload fairing, packed in oversized containers, arriving by ship at the port of Kourou about 1–2 months before the planned launch. From there, they are brought to the spaceport in their transport containers on flatbed trucks.

Assembly begins the next day. The main stage is lifted out of its transport container. Hanging vertically on the crane, it is driven over the start table. The next day, the already assembled solid fuel boosters are brought up and attached to the left and right of the main stage.

The two satellites packed in transport containers, which are to be transported during this launch, will each be delivered to Cayenne airport in a separate large-capacity transport aircraft (mostly Antonov An-124 ). From there they will be brought to the spaceport. This is where the satellites are unloaded, technically checked and, in the end, mostly refueled with fuel.

Meanwhile, the assembly work on the rocket continues.

  • With the Ariane 5GS, the next step was to mount the ring with the control unit on the main stage. The next day, the EPS upper level followed, which was attached to the instrument ring.
  • The next step on the Ariane 5 ECA was to mount the ESC-A upper stage on the main stage before flight V179, and the instrument unit on it the next day. Since flight V179, the ESC-A upper stage and the instrument unit have already been delivered assembled into one unit by Astrium in Bremen and mounted on the main stage, so that the assembly of the Ariane 5 ECA is accelerated and simplified.

Then the rocket is transferred from the BIL to the BAF, where the combined preparations of the rocket and payload begin. The first satellite is mounted on the double launcher. The payload fairing is mounted over it. The second satellite will then be installed on the upper level. The combination of payload fairing , satellite and double launch device is slipped over it. Now - if available - the EPS upper stage is refueled with 10 tons of storable fuel. The rocket then rolls out of the BAF to the launch pad and the countdown, which lasts around 11 hours, can begin.

The main purpose of the countdown is to refuel the main stage and - if available - the ESC-A upper stage with liquid oxygen and hydrogen and to test all important systems again. 7 minutes before the start, the computer takes control. When the countdown reaches zero, the main stage engine fires and is ramped up to maximum thrust. After it has reached full thrust, the computer system checks that it is working correctly. If everything is OK, the solid fuel boosters ignite and reach their full thrust within 0.3 seconds. The missile takes off. A few seconds after take off, the rocket changes from a vertical ascent to an inclined ascent towards the Atlantic. About 120 seconds after taking off, the solid fuel boosters are burned out and blown off. About 180 seconds after launch, the rocket is over 100 km high and the payload fairing is thrown off. She falls in the Atlantic. The rocket continues to climb to a summit height of around 130 km due to the momentum it has experienced from its powerful solid fuel boosters. Now it sinks, accelerating almost parallel to the earth's surface, again to about 115 km, because its speed is still suborbital. After 605 seconds, the main stage of the Ariane 5 GS has burned out and will be disconnected. It orbits the earth almost once, re-enters the earth's atmosphere off the west coast of South America and burns up. In the Ariane 5 ECA and ESV, on the other hand, the main stage burns out after 590 seconds and is separated, flies on a parabolic path over only part of the Atlantic and burns up off the west coast of Africa.

After the main stage has been separated, the EPS or ESC-A upper stage ignites and continues to accelerate. In the Ariane 5 GS, after more than 1,100 seconds of burning time, the EPS upper stage and its payload reach the geostationary transfer orbit at an altitude of around 1,000 kilometers. In the Ariane 5 ECA, the ESC-A upper stage with its payload reaches the geostationary transfer orbit at an altitude of around 600–700 kilometers after a further burn time of around 970 seconds. In both cases, the engine is then switched off by the navigation system. Now the upper stage with the payload sitting on it is realigned and the satellite sitting on top of the double launcher is gently pushed off. After a few minutes, when the satellite has moved out of the swivel range of the upper stage, it is realigned again and pushes the double launch device off. A few minutes later the upper level is realigned and gently pushes off the second, mostly smaller and lighter, satellite.

The geostationary transfer orbit reached normally has a planned height of around 570–35890 km for the Ariane 5 GS and an orbit inclination of 7 °. However, a deviation of ± 10 km for perigee and ± approx. 80–100 km for apogee and ± 0.5 ° orbit inclination is still permitted. The Ariane 5 usually manages to reach the planned train heights to within a few km and the inclination to the equator to only a few hundredths to tenths of a degree .

The geostationary transfer orbit with the highest payload for the Ariane 5 ECA has a planned height of around 250–35890 km and an orbit inclination of 7 °. However, because the payload does not use the full payload capacity of the Ariane 5 ECA during many take-offs, the remaining capacity is then used to approach a GTO with an inclination of less than 7 ° (down to 2 °). Of these, the satellites need less fuel to reach geostationary orbit . This benefits their lifespan. As with the Ariane 5 GS, however, a deviation of ± 10 km for perigee and ± approx. 80–100 km in apogee and ± 0.5 ° orbit inclination is still permitted for the Ariane 5 ECA. Even the Ariane 5 ECA usually manages to reach the planned train heights to within a few kilometers and the inclination to the equator to only a few hundredths to tenths of a degree .

Start of an Ariane 5 ES ATV with the 4th ATV

Previous starts

Launch of the 34th Ariane 5
For a complete list of all completed and some planned Ariane 5 launches, see the article List of Ariane 5 rocket launches .

The Ariane 5 has been in use since 1996. For the first few years, Ariane 5 was used in parallel with the older Ariane 4 . After the last launch of Ariane 4 on February 15, 2003, Ariane 5 was the only active launcher in Europe until Vega launched in 2012. Most of the payloads are communications satellites that are deployed in geostationary transfer orbits.

Failed first flight

The Ariane 5 took off on June 4, 1996 on its maiden flight V88 with the four cluster satellites as a payload. After 37 seconds the rocket suddenly turned sideways, broke apart by the forces of the air and blew itself up. No people were killed, but the material damage amounted to about 370 million US dollars. Abbreviated representations call the false start one of the most expensive software errors in history.

However, the investigation found several errors in the development process as well, each of which, had it not been made, would have prevented loss. It turned out that parts of the software had been taken over by Ariane 4 without checking the validity of the requirements and without testing the system. It was code to calibrate the inertial navigation platforms before launch. Continuing to run for 40 seconds after the start helped the system with Ariane 4 to be available more quickly after interruptions in the start-up procedure, but it was unnecessary for Ariane 5, at least it was too long. Because Ariane 5 was able to move more dynamically, the odometry error estimate increased faster, causing an overflow for which adequate exception handling was deemed unnecessary. The untreated exception led, as required, to a state in which neither sensor signals nor position data that were still correctly calculated were forwarded to the control computer.

The first successful launch took place on October 30, 1997.

More failures

Apart from the first start, there was another failure and three partial successes; no mission failed between December 11, 2002 and January 25, 2018.

serial number Type Start date ( UTC ) Payloads ground
V-88 5 G June 4, 1996, 12:34 p.m. 4 cluster satellites 36 s after take-off, the rocket went off course due to a software error.
It blew itself up at 37.3 s.
V-101 5 G Oct 30, 1997, 1:43 pm Maqsat-H , TEAMSAT , YES , Maqsat-B Orbit too low due to underperformance of the lower level
V-142 5 G July 12, 2001, 10:58 p.m. Artemis , BSAT-2b Orbit too low due to underperformance of the advanced level
V-157 5 ECA Dec 11, 2002, 10:22 pm Hot Bird 7 , Stentor Crash due to a fault in the main engine
VA-241 5 ECA Jan 25, 2018, 10:20 p.m. SES-14 / GOLD , Al Yah 3 Orbit with too high inclination due to wrong take-off direction

When it took off from the Kourou spaceport on the night of January 25th to 26th, 2018, communication with the rocket was lost a few seconds after the upper stage was ignited.

Important payloads

On February 28, 2002, an Ariange 5 G launched ESA's 8.2-ton Envisat environmental satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit.

On September 27, 2003, an Ariane 5 G SMART-1 took off for the moon .

On March 2, 2004, an Ariane 5 G + Rosetta took off for the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet .

On May 14, 2009, an Ariane 5 ECA launched the Herschel and Planck space telescopes into a highly eccentric orbit between 270 and 1,197,080 km altitude, which is inclined 5.99 ° to the equator. From the furthest point of this orbit, the telescopes maneuvered themselves into their orbits around the Lagrange point L 2 .

On July 1, 2009, an Ariane 5 ECA successfully launched the TerreStar 1, the heaviest civil communication satellite at that time, at 6.9 tonnes, onto a geostationary transfer orbit .

On February 7, 2013, an Ariane 5 ECA launched the 10.317 tonne satellites Amazonas 3 and Azerspace / Africasat-1a . This represents the previous GTO record (total mass per flight).

On June 5, 2013, an Ariane 5 ES launched the ESA supply spaceship ATV-4 to the International Space Station in an orbit inclined 51.6 ° to the equator at an altitude of around 260 km. With a takeoff weight of 19.887 tons, this represents the most massive payload to date.

On October 20, 2018, an Ariane 5 ECA BepiColombo took off for Mercury .

On December 25, 2021, an Ariane 5 ECA James Webb space telescope was launched to the Lagrange point L 2 .

Ariane 5 evolution studies

The Ariane 5 Heavy Lift Derivates is a study by the CNES from 1991. The potential increase in the performance of the launcher is discussed. The first stage ( cryogenic lower stage ) has a diameter of 8.2 meters and is equipped with five Vulcain II engines. The second stage ( cryogenic upper stage ) has a diameter of 5.4 meters and is equipped with a re-ignitable Vulcain engine with 700 kN thrust. The possible payload capacity is 90 tons in the LEO and 35 tons in the lunar orbit . The study notes that the development of the Ariane 5 heavy lift derivatives would be associated with high costs despite the use of tried and tested technologies.

Individual evidence

  1. X-38. NASA, February 6, 2002, accessed January 7, 2019 .
  2. Stephen Clark: Europe eyes cooperation on Dream Chaser space plane . In: Spaceflight Now , January 8, 2014. Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  3. arianespace: Ariane 5 overview. Retrieved November 17, 2016 .
  4. German boosters for Europe. In: FliegerRevue. March 2009, pp. 46-49.
  5. a b c Stephen Clark: Ariane 5 rocket upgrades could be accelerated , Date: June 16, 2013, Accessed: June 17, 2013
  6. ^ France's Investment Program for the Future allocates € 25 million for Ariane 5 upgrade. ArianeSpace, September 4, 2013, accessed January 6, 2016 .
  7. Klaus Donath: Perfect VEGA maiden flight ... and now? in Date: February 13, 2012, Retrieved: February 16, 2012
  8. a b Ariane 5 Evolution from Bernd Leitenberger
  9. Arianespace: Arianespace hosts meeting of launch system manufacturers , date October 11, 2010, accessed October 16, 2010
  10. See picture
  11. Arianespace orders 35 Ariane 5 ECA launchers from Astrium
  12. Astrium is building 18 new Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicles for Arianespace . In: airbusgroup . ( online [accessed March 19, 2017]). Astrium is building 18 new Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicles for Arianespace ( memento of March 20, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  13. a b ESA: Eight more Galileo navsats agreed , date: February 2, 2012, accessed: February 4, 2012
  14. Gunter's Space Page: Galileo-IOV PFM, FM2, FM3, FM4. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on January 25, 2012 ; accessed on May 21, 2018 .
  15. Arianespace Launch Kit [1] , Accessed November 17, 2016
  16. Galileo satellites on dispenser archive link ( Memento from November 18, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), accessed: November 18, 2016
  17. ↑ Meeting of the Council of Ministers to define the role of space travel in achieving global goals
  18. European ministers give space travel a new dynamic and strengthen its role
  19. a b The further development of Ariane 5 .
  20. - Bourget 2009: L'ESA signe le contrat de développement du demonstrateur High Thrust Engine
  21. European Space Agency (ESA) awards development contract for Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (ME) to Astrium ( Memento from July 15, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  22. ESA signs contract for Ariane 5 rocket enhancements
  23. Bernd Leitenberger: European launchers Volume 2 - Ariane 5 and Vega. Pp. 296, 340.
  24. ESA: Ministers decide to invest in space to boost Europe's competitiveness and growth , Date: November 21, 2012, Accessed November 22, 2012
  25. EADS-Astrium: Astrium wins ESA contracts to design Ariane 6 and continue development of Ariane 5 ME , Date: January 30, 2013, Accessed: February 5, 2013 ( Memento of February 22, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  26. ESA: Successful conclusion of ESA Council at Ministerial level Date: December 2, 2014.
  27. Alexander Stirn: Raumfahrt: Horse-trading for Europe's new Ariane 6 rocket, Spiegel Online, November 24, 2014.
  28. ESA: Burning time
  29. Problem with satellite launch, January 26, 2018, accessed January 26, 2018.
  31. Ariane 5 brings two satellites into space with a record flight. February 8, 2013, accessed February 8, 2013 .
  32. Data relating to Flight VA213 by Florence Hauss ( Memento from May 3, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) EADS Astrium Launch Kit VA 213
  33. Europe s heaviest cargo ship launched to Space Station , Date: June 6, 2013, Accessed : June 7, 2013


  • William Huon: Ariane, une épopée européenne. ETAI 2007, ISBN 978-2-7268-8709-7 .
  • Andrew Wilson: ESA Achievements , 3rd edition. ESA Publications Division, Noordwijk 2005, ISSN  0250-1589 .
  • Bernd Leitenberger: European launchers , Volume 2: Ariane 5 and Vega, Norderstedt 2010, ISBN 978-3-8391-0165-0 .
  • Ariane 5. In: Bernd Leitenberger: International launchers: The launchers of Russia, Asia and Europe , Space Edition, 2016, ISBN 978-3-7386-5252-9 , pp. 334–359
  • Bernd Leitenberger: European carrier wings 2: Ariane 5, 6 and Vega , Space Edition, 2nd edition from 2015, ISBN 978-3-7386-4296-4

Web links

Commons : Ariane 5  - collection of images, videos and audio files