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The first ever Ariane 4 launch from Kourou on June 14, 1988

Ariane is a series of a European civilian expendable launch vehicles for space launch use. The name comes from the French spelling of the mythological character Ariadne; the word is also used in French to describe some types of hummingbird.

France first proposed the Ariane project and it was officially agreed upon at the end of 1973 after delicate discussions between France, Germany and the UK. The project was Western Europe's second attempt to develop its own launcher following the unsuccessful Europa project. The Ariane project was code-named L3S (the French abbreviation for third-generation substitution launcher). The European Space Agency (ESA) changed the EADS subsidiary EADS Astrium to the development of all Ariane launchers and of the testing facilities, while Arianespace, a 32.5% CNES commercial subsidiary created in 1980, handles production, operations and marketing.

Arianespace launches Ariane rockets from the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou in French Guiana, where the proximity to the equator gives a significant advantage for the launch.


Ariane versions

The several versions of the launcher include:

  • Ariane 1, first successful launch on December 24, 1979
  • Ariane 2, first successful launch on November 20, 1987 (the first launch on May 30, 1986 failed)
  • Ariane 3, first successful launch on August 4, 1984
  • Ariane 4, first successful launch on June 15, 1988
  • Ariane 5, first successful launch on October 30, 1997 (the first launch on June 4, 1996 failed).
The Ariane 5

Ariane 1 was a three-stage launcher, derived from missile technology. Arianes 2 through 4 are enhancements of the basic vehicle. The major differences are improved versions of the engines, allowing stretched first- and third-stage tanks and greater payloads. The largest versions can launch two satellites, mounted in the SPELDA (Structure Porteuse Externe pour Lancements Doubles Ariane) adapter.

Such later versions are often seen with strap-on boosters. These layouts are designated by suffixes after the generation number. First is the total number of boosters, then letters designating liquid- or solid-fueled stages. For example, an Ariane 42P is an Ariane 4 with two solid-fuel boosters. An Ariane 44LP has two solid, two liquid boosters, and a 44L has four liquid-fuel boosters.

Ariane 5 is a nearly-complete redesign. The two storable lower stages are replaced with a single, cryogenic core stage. This simplifies the stack, along with the use of a single core engine (Vulcain). Because the core cannot lift its own weight, two solid-fuel boosters are strapped to the sides. The boosters can be recovered for examination but are not reused. The upper stage is storable and restartable, powered by a single Aestus engine.[1]

In addition, the Ariane 5 is capable of launching the heaviest loads available below the needs of a heavy lifter like the Space Shuttle, Saturn V, Energiya or Ares V. On 4 May 2007, an Ariane 5-ECA rocket set a new commercial payload record, lifting two satellites with a combined mass of 9.4 tonnes.[2]

As of January 2006, 169 Ariane flights have boosted 290 satellites, successfully placing 271 of them on orbit (223 main passengers and 48 auxiliary passengers) for a total mass of 575,000 kg successfully delivered on orbit. Attesting to the ubiquity of Ariane launch vehicles, France's Cerise satellite, which was orbited by an Ariane in 1995,[3] struck a discarded Ariane rocket stage in 1996.[4] The incident marked the first verified case of a collision with a piece of cataloged space debris.[5]



Arianespace has 24 shareholders from 10 European countries, including:[6]

Country Shareholders Capital
 Belgium 3 3.15%
 Denmark 1 not significant
 France 7 60.12%
 Germany 2 18.62%
 Italy 2 9.36%
 Netherlands 1 1.82%
 Norway 1 0.10%
 Spain 3 2.01%
 Sweden 2 2.30%
 Switzerland 2 2.51%

Total of 99.99% due to round-off

Corporate management is structured as follows:

Position Name
CEO & Chairman Jean-Yves Le Gall
Quality Vice-President Gérard Gradel
Senior Vice-President of Programs Patrick Bonguet
Senior Vice-President of Marketing Philippe Berterottière
General Secretary, Senior Vice-President of Finances Françoise Bouzitat
Senior Vice-President of Engineering Édouard Perez


Location of Office Head of Branch
Évry, France Jean-Yves Le Gall
USA Clayton Mowry
Tokyo, Japan Jean-Louis Claudon
Singapore Richard Bowles

As of 1 July 2006, Arianespace employed 271 personnel at its French HQ, at its launch complex at the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana and at offices in Washington DC, Singapore and Tokyo.

To be upgraded

Ariane's Cup

Ariane's Cup is a sailing competition organized on behalf of the Industrials participating to the Ariane programme.


Flyable models of the Ariane 4 and 5 are available as kits from Noris Raketen in Germany. In 1987 Lambert Shelter built a 5.40 metre long flyable model of the Ariane, now displayed at the Hermann Oberth Space Travel Museum in Feucht. A 4.5 m, 85 kg flyable model of the Ariane 4, built by the Advanced Rocketry Group Of Switzerland (ARGOS), was launched in 2002 in Amarillo, Texas and successfully again on 19 September 2004 at 12:15 local time in the Val de Ruz in the Canton of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

See also


External links



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