The End of 27 Years of Service for Ariane 5 Rocket

5th Jul 2023
The End of 27 Years of Service for Ariane 5 Rocket

Ariane 5 rocket, an iconic figure in European space advancement, is retiring today after 27 years of service. 

The end of an era 

With its solid rocket boosters and liquid hydrogen-fueled core stage, the flagship rocket has provided Europe with space access for almost three decades. However, this long run is coming to an end. 

The final Ariane 5 rocket is lifting off from Kourou, French Guiana, today, with a 65-minute launch window running from 7 pm until 8.05 pm local time, which is 11 pm until 12.05 am in the UK. The launch will be streamed on the official ESA page.

The rocket will be carrying a German communications satellite and a French military communications satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. 

The iconic rocket, with its unique capacity for launching spacecraft and satellites into precise orbits, was supposed to embark on its final launch a couple of weeks ago. Faulty pyrotechnical transmission lines stopped this from happening.

We thought we’d see Ariane 5 blast off for the final time yesterday. However, bad weather interfered, meaning we all eagerly anticipate the final launch today.

Ariane 5 has come a long way since a failed launch in 1996

The much-heralded debut launch of Ariane 5 did not go to plan. Not only was the initial launch in June 1996 a failure, but the second launch, in 1997, was only partly successful. 

However, after these early setbacks, the sky was the limit – excuse the pun! 

The rocket has amassed an impressive record of success, with 111 successful launches from 116 launch attempts over the past 27 years, equating to a 95.7% success rate. 

Ariane 5 has proven a true workhorse throughout its history, as it has been responsible for launching many commercial satellites and ensuring European nations could get national security payloads into orbit. 

A key role in a number of critical space science missions

The iconic rocket has also played a vital role in a number of critical space science missions, including:

Of course, one of the most famous and celebrated launches came at the close of 2021, when Ariane 5 launched the James Webb Space Telescope into ultra-precise orbit for NASA, which doubled the estimated mission lifetime of JWST to 20 years. 

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