December 4, 2023

Key milestones

5 July 2023, VA-261: last Ariane 5 launch.

25 December 2021, VA-256: launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The precision of the launch has extended the telescope’s initial service life from 5 to 26 years according to the latest estimation (Science et Avenir N°916, 1 June 2023).

25 September 2018, VA-243: 100th Ariane 5 flight.

25 July 2018, VA-244 (launched before VA-243 for schedule reasons): eighth and last flight of Ariane 5 ES after the last three Galileo satellite launches. In 2018, Ariane 5 ECA becomes the last and only variant operating until Ariane 6 comes on stream.

26 January 2018, VA-241: first partial failure of an Ariane 5 ECA after 66 straight successes—84 all variants included—as a result of an error on a flight plan parameter. The two satellites the launcher was carrying were left in the wrong orbit but subsequently reached their intended position.

17 November 2016: first European Galileo satellites launched by an Ariane 5 ES, the first flight of this variant since the fifth and last ATV launch in 2014.

9 March 2008: first Ariane 5 ES launch, carrying a new ATV cargo spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). Five resupply flights would be made up to July 2014.

11 August 2005: first launch of Ariane 5 GS.

12 February 2005, flight V521: first successful launch of Ariane 5 ECA after the failure of flight V517 in 2002, marking the start of an uninterrupted run of successes.

2 March 2004: first launch of Ariane 5 G+.

15 February 2003: end of transition from Ariane 4, which makes its last flight.

11 December 2002, flight V517: the new Ariane 5 ECA fails on its first launch due to a mechanical weakness in the nozzle of the new Vulcain 2 engine, which cuts out 3 minutes and 45 seconds into the flight, bringing down the main cryogenic stage with the upper stage and its payload. The decision is taken to abort the launcher 7 minutes into the flight.

1998 to 2002: 15 straight successes for Ariane 5 G.

12 July 2001, flight V510: Artemis and BSat 2b successfully launched but into a lower orbit than planned.

21 October 1998, flight V503: after this third flawless experimental flight, the launcher is flight-qualified.

30 October 1997, flight V502: the launcher soars skyward from French Guiana on its second qualification flight. The launch is a success, despite some anomalies: Teamsat is left in a lower orbit than planned, but without compromising its operations.

4 June 1996, flight V501: first qualification flight for Ariane 5 G. After 37 seconds, the launcher veers off course and is aborted by its safety systems. After tracing the mishap back to a computing issue, the project teams spend nearly 16 months making multiple checks.

1987: ESA member states agree to develop Ariane 5 to succeed Ariane 4.

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