Ariane (rocket family)

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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.

France first proposed the Ariane project and it was officially agreed upon at the end of 1973 after 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) charged the EADS subsidiary EADS Astrium, presently Airbus Defence and Space, with 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 Centre Spatial Guyanais at Kourou in French Guiana.

Ariane versions[edit]

Ariane rocket at Bourget airport museum, Paris

The several versions of the launcher include:

  • Ariane 1, operational 1979-1986, with 9 successes out of 11 launches
  • Ariane 2, operational 1986-1989, with 5 successes out of 6 launches
  • Ariane 3, operational 1984-1989, with 10 successes out of 11 launches
  • Ariane 4, operational 1990-2003, with 113 successes out of 116 launches
  • Ariane 5, operational 1996–present, with 73 successes out of 77 launches (by December 2014)
  • Ariane 6, currently in development, due for launch in 2021-2022.[1]
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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[citation needed] Attesting to the ubiquity of Ariane launch vehicles, France's Cerise satellite, which was orbited by an Ariane in 1995,[4] struck a discarded Ariane rocket stage in 1996.[5] The incident marked the first verified case of a collision with a piece of catalogued space debris.[6]

On February 16, 2011, the 200th Ariane rocket was launched, successfully carrying the Johannes Kepler ATV into low Earth orbit.


Full-sized Ariane 5 mock-up from Cité de l'Espace in Toulouse

Arianespace has 24 shareholders from 10 European countries, including:[7]

Country Shareholders Capital
 Belgium 3 3.15%
 Denmark 1 0.01%
 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[edit]

Position Name[8]
CEO & Chairman Stéphane Israël
Senior Vice-President, Programs Louis Laurent
Senior Vice-President, Sales & Customers Jacques Breton
Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hundt
Vice President, Corporate Communication Isabelle Veillon


Location of Office Head of Branch
French Guiana Patrick Loire
USA Clayton Mowry
Japan Kiyoshi Takamatsu
Singapore Richard Bowles

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

Ariane's Cup[edit]

The Ariane's Cup is a sailing competition organized on behalf of the Industrials participating in 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[edit]


  1. ^ "Europe okays design for next-generation rocket". PhysOrg. 9 July 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Aestus Rocket Engine Astrium (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company)
  3. ^ European rocket powers to record BBC news
  4. ^ "SPACEWARN Bulletin Number 501". NASA. Archived from the original on 14 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  5. ^ "Space Junk". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 8 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  6. ^ "CO2 prolongs life of 'space junk'". BBC News. May 5, 2005. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  7. ^ "Arianespace shareholders represent scientific, technical, financial and political entities from 10 different European countries.". Archived from the original on 2008-02-06. Retrieved 2008-03-07. 
  8. ^ "Management team". Arianespace. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 

External links[edit]