CNES projects library

December 4, 2023

Ariane 5

Ariane 5 was, in 2023, the latest in the series of launchers that began operating in the late 1970s to give Europe its own independent space launch capability. To keep pace with the trend towards ever-larger satellites, it was designed with double the lift capacity of its predecessor Ariane 4. In its 27-year career, Ariane 5 has carried out 117 launches from the Guiana Space Center, putting more than 200 satellites into orbit.

The Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher assured Europe’s access to space since late 90s. It quickly established itself as the world leader in the launch market for geostationary telecommunications satellites, offering the ability to place 10 tonnes for a dual launch and 10.8 tonnes for a single launch into geostationary transfer orbit. It also provided the capacity to loft 21 tonnes into low Earth orbit, as it did for the ATV cargo spacecraft that ferried supplies to the International Space Station.

Ariane 5 was an evolutionary launcher. Five variants were built in two decades to accommodate increasingly heavier satellites and meet the needs of institutional and commercial customers. The last commercially operated variant was Ariane 5 ECA.

As of July 2023, Ariane 5 had accomplished 117 launches, with a straight run of 84 successes all variants included, making it one of the most reliable launchers in the world.

Ariane 5 was operated from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, alongside the Vega and Vega-C light launchers. Ariane 5 is set to be replaced by Ariane 6, a cheaper, even more powerful and versatile vehicle scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2024.