Ariane 5 is the cornerstone of Europe’s independent access to space. Its reliability, availability and affordability are based on a strategy where a significant part of the exploitation costs is financed through commercial activity.
Ariane 5 is launched six to seven times a year, of which only one or two are for institutional customers.
This strategy has proved to be highly successful for more than 30 years. The successive versions of the first generation of rockets, Ariane 1 to 4, launched half of all the world’s commercial satellites.
Ariane 5 maintains this impressive record, making it one of the most reliable launchers in the world at an affordable price for Europe.
Ariane 5 was a major evolution for the Ariane family. It is more powerful and uses more advanced technologies. Three successive generic versions – Ariane 5G, Ariane 5G+ and Ariane 5GS, are now retired from service.
There are now two operational configurations:
Ariane 5 ECA, the Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) workhorse, mainly delivers communications satellites;
Ariane 5 ES is used for various missions, such as the Automated Transfer Vehicle in low orbit and Galileo in medium orbit.
The Ariane launch log to end of December 2017, stands at 16 Ariane 5G, 3 Ariane 5G+, 6 Ariane 5GS, 64 Ariane 5 ECA and 7 Ariane 5 ES, for a total of 96 launches.
Out of these Ariane 5 launches, two failures have occurred :
- V501, on 4 June 1996, the first Ariane 5G flight failed because of a system software design error;
- V517, on 11 December 2002, the first Ariane 5 ECA flight, owing to a failure of the Vulcain 2 main cryogenic engine.