August 6, 2003

Technical data

The lower composite comprises two elements: a central cryogenic core, which burns cryogenic propellants combining liquid hydrogen and oxygen2 solid booster stages delivering over 90% of the total thrust of the launcher at lift-off. After burning for 2 min, they separate from the central unit 60 km above the Atlantic Ocean

Ariane profile

LauncherAriane 1Ariane 2Ariane 3Ariane 4Ariane 5
Launch mass210 t219 t234 t243 to 480 t750 to 780 t
Geostationary transfer orbit lift capacity1.75 t2.20 t2.60 t2 to 4.8 t6.9 to 10 t
Thrust*250 t270 t270 t270 to 540 t1 200 to 1 300 t
Height47.4 m49 m49 m59 m47 to 57 m
Launches1161111649 **
Design lifetime1981/19861986/19891984/19891988/20031996/...

* Thrust is measured in kilo-newtons (kN) but is commonly expressed in tonnes. To interpret the value of a force expressed in kN, divide it by ten to obtain a figure roughly corresponding to the mass (in tonnes) that the force can lift.
** Figures on 1st January, 2010

Lower section

Vulcain engine

The highly complex Vulcain engine is the fruit of nearly 15 years of research. It forms the central cryogenic core of the lower section of Ariane 5.

Designed by Snecma Moteurs, it weighs 1,650 kg and is delivers 20 times more thrust than the engine on Ariane 4.

New technologies were incorporated into its design, including a new copper alloy for the combustion chamber, high-strength materials for the turbopumps and high-power supersonic turbines.

Vulcain 2 is an upgraded version of the engine, designed for Ariane 5 ECA, providing a 20% performance gain.

Modular upper section

The upper section is adapted to mission requirements. Whatever launcher variant is used, this section comprises:
  • fairing:
    made of 2 half-shells, the fairing protects the payloads on ascent through the atmosphere; it is jettisoned about 3 min into the flight

  • vehicle equipment bay (VEB):
    this is the launcher’s electronic brain, containing all the instructions necessary for flight; it controls and corrects the launcher’s position if needed, commands engine cut-off, stage separation and so on
  • Sylda 5:
    bearing structure accommodating 2 separate payloads; for some missions the ASAP platform is used and supports up to 8 microsatellites

  • upper stage:
    housed inside the upper section, this is the only stage not ignited at lift-off; once above the dense atmosphere, it provides the additional thrust necessary to place the payload in orbit
Earlier generic versions of Ariane 5 were equipped with a storable propellant stage (EPS), replaced by the cryogenic upper stage (ESC-A) on Ariane 5 ECA.

ESC-A burns liquid oxygen and hydrogen, whereas EPS uses other liquid propellants (mono-methyl-hydrazine and nitrogen peroxide).
Did you know ?
Ariane 5 ECA :
  • 780 tonnes at lift-off or 10% of the weight of the Eiffel Tower
  • 130 seconds to burn 260 t of solid fuel in each booster
  • Vulcain 2 engine, generating power equivalent to that of a nuclear reactor
  • 700,000 hours of work by 6,000 European employees at the height of the programme
  • Overall cost at completion of nearly 4,500 billion francs
  • 1,100 industrial firms involved in the project


Kourou launch site

The Ariane launch site, owned by Esa, is located near Kourou, French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.
The site’s ideal location at 5° north of the equator takes advantage of the Earth’s rotational speed to place satellites into geostationary orbit.
Ariane 5 is launched from a new facility called ELA 3, which can handle 8 launches per year.

For the 1st time since the creation of the Guiana Space Centre (CSG), industrial facilities working directly on launcher manufacture and integration have been installed on site in French Guiana.

Between 1988 and 1996, a complete assembly line and launch facility was built at Kourou.
This facility comprises the factories and buildings for production of solid booster stages, as well as assembly of launcher elements and preparation of payloads, and ground tracking infrastructure (Jupiter control centre and TTC network).

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