It is manufactured under the authority of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), with EADS Astrium Space Transportation (Astrium) as prime contractor, leading a consortium of sub-contractors. The rocket is operated and marketed by Arianespace as part of the Ariane programme. Astrium builds the rockets in Europe and Arianespace launches them from the Guiana Space Centre.
It succeeded Ariane 4, but does not derive from it directly. Its development took 10 years and cost €7 billion. Ariane 5 has been refined since the first launch in successive versions, G, G+, GS, ECA, and most recently, ES. ESA originally designed Ariane 5 to launch the manned mini shuttle Hermes, and thus intended it to be "human rated" from the beginning. After ESA cancelled Hermes, the rocket became a purely robotic launcher.
Two satellites can be mounted using a SYLDA carrier (SYstème de Lancement Double Ariane). Three main satellites are possible depending on size using SPELTRA (Structure Porteuse Externe Lancement TRiple Ariane). Up to eight secondary payloads, usually small experiment packages or minisatellites, can be carried with an ASAP (Ariane Structure for Auxiliary Payloads) platform.
By mid 2007, Arianespace has ordered a total of 99 Ariane 5 launchers from Astrium. The first batch ordered in 1995 consisted of 14 launchers, while the second - P2 - batch ordered in 1999 consisted of 20 launchers . A third - PA - batch consisting of 25 ECA and 5 ES launchers was ordered in 2004. The latest batch ordered in mid 2007 consist of another 35 ECA launchers. Through these orders, the Ariane 5 will be the workhorse of Arianespace at least through 2015.
Ariane 5’s cryogenic H158 main stage (H173 for Ariane 5 ECA) is called the EPC (Étage Principal Cryotechnique - Cryotechnic Main Stage). It consists of a large tank 30.5 metres high with two compartments, one for 130 tonnes of liquid oxygen and one for 25 tonnes of liquid hydrogen, and a Vulcain engine at the base with thrust of 115 tonnes-force (1.13 meganewtons). This part of the first stage weighs about 15 tonnes when empty.
Attached to the sides are two solid propellant EAP, P238 (P241 for Ariane 5 ECA), each weighing about 277 tonnes full. Each delivers a thrust of about 630 tonnes-force (). These EAP can be recovered with parachutes, like the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters. They may have been retrieved for examination on early missions, but are not reused.
The second stage is on top of the main stage and below the payload. The Ariane 5G used the EPS (Étage à Propergols Stockables - Storable Propellant Stage), which is fueled by monomethylhydrazine (MMH) and nitrogen tetroxide, whereas the Ariane 5 ECA uses the ESC (Étage Supérieur Cryotechnique - Cryogenic Upper Stage), which is fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
The payload and all upper stages are covered at launch by a fairing, which splits off once sufficient altitude has been reached. Ariane 5G+ used and Ariane 5 GS and ES use an improved EPS upper stage. The EPS upper stage is capable of re-ignition, which has been demonstrated twice. The first demonstration occurred during flight V26, which was launched on 5 October 2007. This was purely to test the engine, and occurred after the payloads had been deployed. The first operational use of restart capability as part of a mission, came on 9 March 2008, when two burns were made to deploy the first Automated Transfer Vehicle into a circular parking orbit. Following spacecraft separation, a third burn took place to de-orbit the upper stage.
At an ESA conference (December 2005) in Berlin there was no decision to restart or cancel the program, meaning it is currently on hold. The Vinci engine, which is designed to power the Ariane 5 ECB upper stage, is still being developed, though at a lower pace. Consequently, a restart of the ESC-B program is not impossible at the ESA conference in 2008, but seems very unlikely.
These developments will probably later make their way back into the Ariane programme. The incorporation of the ESC-B with the improvements to the solid motor casing and an uprated Vulcain engine would deliver 27,000kg to LEO. This would be developed for any lunar missions but the performance of such a design may not be possible if the higher Max-Q for the launch of this rocket poses a constraint on the mass delivered to orbit.
Ariane 5's first test flight (Ariane 5 Flight 501) on 4 June 1996 failed, with the rocket self-destructing 37 seconds after launch because of a malfunction in the control software, which was arguably one of the most expensive computer bugs in history. A data conversion from 64-bit floating point to 16-bit signed integer value had caused a processor trap (operand error). The floating point number had a value too large to be represented by a 16-bit signed integer. Efficiency considerations had led to the disabling of the software handler (in Ada code) for this trap, although other conversions of comparable variables in the code remained protected.
The second test flight, L502 on 30 October 1997 was a partial failure. The Vulcain nozzle caused a roll problem, leading to premature shutdown of the core stage. The upper stage operated successfully but could not reach the intended orbit.
Another partial failure occurred on 12 July 2001, with the delivery of two satellites into an incorrect orbit, at only half the height of the intended GTO. The ESA Artemis telecommunications satellite was able to reach its intended orbit on 31 January 2003, through the use of its experimental ion propulsion system.
The next launch did not occur until 1 March 2002, when the Envisat environmental satellite successfully reached an orbit above the Earth in the 11th launch. At , it was the heaviest single payload until the launch of the first ATV on March 9, 2008 (~9000kg).
The first launch of the ECA variant on 11 December 2002 ended in failure when a main booster problem caused the rocket to veer off-course, forcing its self-destruction three minutes into the flight. Its payload of two communications satellites (Stentor and Hot Bird 7), valued at about EUR 630 million, was lost in the ocean. The fault was determined to have been caused by a leak in coolant pipes allowing the nozzle to overheat. After this failure, Arianespace SA delayed the expected January 2003 launch for the Rosetta mission to 26 February 2004, but this was again delayed to early March 2004 due to a minor fault in the foam that protects the cryogenic tanks on the Ariane 5.
On 27 September 2003 the last Ariane 5 G boosted three satellites (including the first European lunar probe, SMART-1), in Flight 162. On 18 July 2004 an Ariane 5 G+ boosted what was at the time the heaviest telecommunication satellite ever, Anik F2, weighing almost .
The first successful launch of the Ariane 5 ECA took place on 12 February 2005. The payload consisted of the XTAR-EUR military communications satellite, a 'SLOSHSAT' small scientific satellite and a MaqSat B2 payload simulator. The launch had been originally scheduled for October 2004, but additional testing and the military requiring a launch at that time (of an Helios 2A observation satellite) delayed the attempt.
On 16 November 2005, the third Ariane 5 ECA launch (the second successful ECA launch) took place. It carried a dual payload consisting of Spaceway-F2 for DirecTV and Telkom-2 for PT Telekomunikasi of Indonesia. This was the rocket's heaviest dual payload to date, at more than .
On 11 March 2006, the fourth Ariane 5 ECA launch boosted another dual payload to orbit. This payload consisted of Hot Bird 7A for Eutelsat (a replacement for the Hot Bird 7 satellite lost in the first Ariane 5 ECA launch), and SPAINSAT, a Spanish government telecommunications satellite for HISDESAT.
On 4 May 2007 the Ariane 5 ECA set another new commercial record, lifting into transfer orbit the Astra 1L and Galaxy 17 communication satellites with a combined weight of 8.6 tonnes, and a total payload weight of 9.4 tonnes. This record was again broken by another Ariane 5 ECA, launching the Skynet 5B and Star One C1 satellites, on 11 November 2007. The total payload weight for this launch was .
& Time (UTC)
|Flight (Vol)|| 5G, 5G+,|
|30.10.1997 13:43:00||V-101||5G||502||MaqSat H & TEAMSAT, MaqSat B, YES||Partial failure||2|
|21.10.1998 16:37:21||V-112||5G||503||MaqSat 3, ARD||Success||3|
|21.03.2000 23:28:19||V-128||5G||505||INSAT 3B, AsiaStar||Success||5|
|14.09.2000 22:54:07||V-130||5G||506||Astra 2B, GE 7||Success||6|
|16.11.2000 01:07:07||V-135||5G||507||PAS 1R, Amsat P3D, STRV 1C, STRV 1D||Success||7|
|20.12.2000 00:26:00||V-138||5G||508||Astra 2D, GE 8 (Aurora 3), LDREX||Success||8|
|08.03.2001 22:51:00||V-140||5G||509||Eurobird 1, BSat 2a||Success||9|
|12.07.2001 22:58:00||V-142||5G||510||Artemis, BSat 2b||Partial failure||10|
|05.07.2002 23:22:00||V-153||5G||512||Stellat 5, N-Star c||Success||12|
|28.08.2002 22:45:00||V-155||5G||513||Atlantic Bird 1, MSG 1, MFD||Success||13|
|11.12.2002 22:22:00||V-157||5ECA||517||Hot Bird 7, Stentor, MFD A, MFD B||Failure||14|
|09.04.2003 22:52:19||V-160||5G||514||Insat 3A, Galaxy 12||Success||15|
|11.06.2003 22:38:15||V-161||5G||515||Optus C1, BSat 2c||Success||16|
|27.09.2003 23:14:46||V-162||5G||516||Insat 3E, eBird 1, SMART-1||Success||17|
|18.07.2004 00:44:00||V-163||5G+||519||Anik F2||Success||19|
|18.12.2004 16:26:00||V-165||5G+||520||Helios 2A, Essaim 1, 2, 3 and 4, PARASOL, Nanosat 01||Success||20|
|12.02.2005 21:03:00||V-164||5ECA||521||XTAR-EUR, Maqsat B2, Sloshsat||Success||21|
|11.08.2005 08:20:00||V-166||5GS||523||Thaicom 4 - iPStar||Success||22|
|13.10.2005 22:32:00||V-168||5GS||524||Syracuse 3A, Galaxy 15||Success||23|
|16.11.2005 23:46:00||V-167||5ECA||522||Spaceway F2, TELKOM-2||Success||24|
|21.12.2005 22:33:00||V-169||5GS||525||Insat 4A, MSG 2, MFD C||Success||25|
|11.03.2006 22:32:50||V-170||5ECA||527||Spainsat, MFD C, MFD C, Hot Bird 7A||Success||26|
|26.05.2006 21:08:50||V-171||5ECA||529||Satmex 6, Thaicom 5||Success||27|
|11.08.2006 22:15:00||V-172||5ECA||531||JCSat 10, Syracuse 3B||Success||28|
|13.10.2006 20:56:00||V-173||5ECA||533||DirecTV-9S, Optus D1, LDREX-2||Success||29|
|08.12.2006 22:08:00||V-174||5ECA||534||WildBlue 1, AMC 18||Success||30|
|11.03.2007 22:03||V-175||5ECA||535||Skynet-5A, Insat-4B||Success||31|
|04.05.2007 22:29||V-176||5ECA||536||Astra 1L, Galaxy 17||Success||32|
|14.08.2007 23:44||V-177||5ECA||537||Spaceway F3, BSAT-3A||Success||33|
|05.10.2007 22:02||V-178||5GS||526||Intelsat 11, Optus D2||Success||34|
|14.11.2007 22:06||V-179||5ECA||538||Skynet 5B, Star One C1||Success||35|
|21.12.2007 21:41||V-180||5GS||530||RASCOM-QAF 1, Horizons 2||Success||36|
|09.03.2008 04:03||V-181||ES ATV||528||Automated Transfer Vehicle 1 - "Jules-Verne"||Success||37|
|18.04.2008 22:17||V-182||5ECA||539||Star One C2, Vinasat-1||Success||38|
|12.06.2008 22:05||V-183||5ECA||540||Turksat 3A, Skynet-5C||Success||39|
|07.07.2008 21:47||V-184||5ECA||541||BADR-6, ProtoStar I||Success||40|
|14.08.2008 20:44||V-185||5ECA||542||AMC-21, Superbird 7||Success||41|
|2008-11-28||V-186||Ariane-5ECA||543||Eutelsat W2M / Hot Bird 9||Planned|
|2009-02||V-187||Ariane-5ECA||544||Herschel / Planck||Planned|
There is one Ariane 5 GS unit left (532) to be launched