Ariane 5 is a heavy-lift satellite launcher, with a payload of up to 10 tonnes. Since becoming operational in 2005, it has proved reliable and flexible, with 50 successful launches in succession up to summer 2012. Astrium is the sole prime contractor for the Ariane 5 system and is the largest industrial shareholder in Arianespace, which markets and sells the Ariane 5 worldwide and carries out launches from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana. Astrium is prime contractor for future developments on Ariane 5, starting with the development of the Ariane 5 ME (Midlife Evolution) launcher, which will provide an increased payload capacity of up to 12 tonnes.
Ariane 5 ECA and ES: built on tradition
The new-generation Ariane 5 continues the tradition of its famous predecessors, Ariane 1 to 4, but features a radically new design. Providing increased Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) payload capacity of up to 10 tonnes on dual launches, Ariane 5 meets the evolving demands of both commercial and governmental markets. It incorporates a new cryogenic upper stage carrying over 14 tonnes of propellants, and a strengthened cryogenic main stage, powered by the new Vulcain 2 engine. Alongside the Ariane 5 ECA version, which provides the above payload to GTO, there is the Ariane 5 ES, which can carry a higher payload – for example the Automated Transfer Vehicle – to low Earth orbit.
A5 Midlife Evolution: greater capacity
Looking to the future, Ariane 5 ME will offer a 20% improvement both in capacity and cost per kilogram, as well as greater versatility of mission in one launcher. Its main new design feature will be the upper stage, which will be equipped with a Vinci® restartable cryogenic engine, while the nose fairing will also be extended by three metres to accommodate larger payloads. Development work on Ariane 5 ME is currently ongoing, with a target launch date of late 2017.
ARIANE 5 IN FIGURES
5 versions of the Ariane launcher, developed over three decades 12 number of countries participating in the Ariane programme 10.12.1999 date of Ariane 5’s first commercial launch, carrying the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory satellite. 3 number of Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV) transported into space by Ariane 5 20,100 kilogrammes greatest mass placed into orbit by an Ariane launcher, achieved with the ATV-2.