February 14, 2005

Ariane 5 ECA joins the family

“The largest and latest in the Ariane generation has now joined the family.” Those were the first words of CNES President Yannick d’Escatha on the announcement of the successful launch of Ariane 5 ECA. The qualification launch on Saturday 12 February was a complete success, sending the XTar-Eur and Sloshsat satellites into orbit—a success that had been eagerly awaited in all quarters of the space community. Ariane 5 ECA's lift-off. 12 February 2005. Crédits : CNES/ESA/Arianespace
14 February 2005

The reward for over 2 years of effort

Saturday evening, the tension was plain to see on the faces of teams at the Guiana Space Centre and the Launch Vehicles Directorate in Evry, France. Their nervousness was understandable, given that since Ariane 5 ECA’s aborted maiden flight, the entire European space community and especially the contractors working on the programme had mobilized their resources to return the launcher to flight.

This success is the culmination of more than 2 years of effort, involving 20,000 seconds of firing tests on the Vulcain 2 engine implicated in the previous launch failure, a series of corrective actions and a launch campaign of more than 120 days at the Guiana Space Centre, consisting of 4,000 operations since last August.
Teams have been pursuing a heavy workload in readiness for the launch, but they will have little time to rest as they set about analysing readings from more than 1,400 sensors on the launcher to confirm its flight performance and refine calculation models if necessary.

After a short delay due to a problem interpreting pressure sensor readings, Ariane ascended into the sky over French Guiana. Powered by 20% more thrust at lift-off, Ariane 5 ECA’s impressive climb was visible until separation of its EAP solid boosters at an altitude of 69 km.
Ariane 5 ECA will now be operated by Arianespace, with CNES responsible for maintaining the launcher’s certification and qualification throughout its operating lifetime.

In memory of Hubert Curien

“This success confirms Ariane 5’s technical and operational maturity. […] It is a fantastic achievement for Europe, for France and for CNES,” said Yannick d’Escatha, congratulating teams at the Guiana Space Centre CNES’s Launch Vehicles Directorate.
Hubert Curien. Crédits : CNES
Hubert Curien. Crédits : CNES

Hubert Curien, CNES’s President from 1976 to 1984 who witnessed the very first Ariane launch in 1979, died only days before this latest landmark event. “On behalf of the European and French space community, I would like to dedicate this success to him,” said Yannick d’Escatha. “He was one of the chief motivators at the start of the Ariane adventure that has written a new page in its history today.”

More about...

Ariane 5, Europe's launcher for the third millennium
Ariane 1 to 4, the saga of the Ariane launcher

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