Ariane 5 rocket launches heaviest payload ever and completes 72nd consecutive launch

Posted on 23 Jun 2016 by Tim Brown
An Ariane 5 rocket takes off - image courtesy of Ariane Space.
An Ariane 5 rocket takes off - image courtesy of Ariane Space.

The Ariane 5 rocket has completed its 72nd consecutive successful launch and beaten its own commercial payload weight record, lifting more than 10.7 tonnes into geostationary transfer orbit.

Airbus Safran Launchers were the industrial lead contractor for the launch and the prime manufacturing contractor for the Ariane 5 rockets, which are manufactured under the authority of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales.

The 230th Ariane 5 rocket lifted off from the European spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana) and exceeded its payload record by successfully placing two telecommunications satellites in geostationary transfer orbit.

The launch took flight with a weight of 10,730 kg (of which 9840 kg were the weight of the satellites), representing an increase of 337 kg over the previous record on February 7, 2013.

This was the 9th Ariane 5 rocket launch with Airbus Safran Launchers as lead contractor and with the support of the parent companies: Airbus Group and Safran.

“This new commercial payload record demonstrates the success of the steps taken by the Airbus Safran Launchers teams and the parent companies to constantly improve the performance and competitiveness of Ariane 5”, Alain Charmeau, CEO of Airbus Safran Launchers pointed out. “This launch confirmed the reliability and performance of Ariane 5 in order to meet the needs of Arianespace and its customers, whom I wish to thank, along with ESA and CNES, for their confidence and support.”

Airbus Safran Launchers has been the prime contractor for the Ariane 5 European launcher, one of the largest and most ambitious space programmes in the world, since January 2015.

Building on the expertise of the Airbus and Safran groups, the company oversees an industrial network that brings together more than 550 companies (more than 100 of which are SMEs) in 12 European countries. Airbus Safran Launchers manages the entire industrial supply chain, which ranges from production of the launcher to its final configuration for supply of the mission’s flight software. This chain includes the equipment and structures, manufacture of the engines, stage integration and then complete integration of the launcher in Guiana.

Ariane 5 rocket to be superseded by Ariane 6

Representing cutting-edge European expertise, the Ariane 5 launcher’s flexibility is clearly demonstrated by its ability to inject heavy payloads into low Earth orbit, or 2 satellites into geostationary transfer orbit, or a single satellite with optimised lifetime, or several satellites into medium Earth orbit (MEO).

Airbus Safran Launchers is also the prime contractor for the future European launcher Ariane 6, whose maiden flight is scheduled for 2020.

It will replace Ariane 5 in about 2023, proposing an expanded flight envelope and a wider range of missions for a significantly lower price.