Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator

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The Advanced Reentry Demonstrator (ARD) was a suborbital reentry test flown on the third Ariane 5 flight. The ARD was launched on October 21, 1998, and was released shortly after separation of the launcher's cryogenic main stage (at an altitude of about 216 km) 12 minutes after lift-off from the Guiana Space Centre, Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The ARD reached an altitude of 830 km and, after a guided entry, splashed down to within 4.9 km of its target point in the Pacific Ocean between the Marquesas Islands and Hawaii after one hour and 41 minutes of flight. It was recovered some five hours later and has undergone more detailed technical analysis in Europe. Engineers analysing data from its sub-orbital flight reported that all the capsule's systems had performed well and according to expectations. Engineers analysing real-time telemetry from the flight have reported that all electrical equipment and propulsion systems functioned nominally. Telemetry systems and reception stations all performed well, and the onboard GPS receiver worked satisfactorily during the entire flight except, as expected, during black-out in reentry.

During reentry the heat shield temperature reached 900°C and the cone and heatshield thermal protection was in a perfect state after retrieval. Throughout the flight ARD remained airtight and perfectly intact.

Built by Aérospatiale (France) for the European Space Agency, the ARD has a classical Apollo capsule design and was packed with the most advanced technologies to test and qualify new technologies and flight control capabilities for atmospheric reentry and landing. During the mission it recorded and transmitted to the ground more than 200 critical parameters for analysis of the flight and behaviour of onboard equipment.

The ARD is exhibited at the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, Netherlands.

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