Overview | Ariane 1-3 | Ariane 4 | Milestones

Ariane heritage > Ariane 1-3

The Ariane 1-3 series of launch vehicles was the result of Europe's determination to gain an independent access to space, and forward-looking thinking on the need for reliable and cost-effective launchers to serve the commercial market.

European space leaders made the decision to build the Ariane launcher using proven technology available or under development at the time, and settled on a basic design that provided the capability for significant growth over the program's lifetime.

The Ariane 1-3 series was based on a three-stage, vertically integrated configuration. Its cornerstone version was Ariane 1, which had three stages: the L140 first stage powered by four Viking 5 engines (with a total 140 metric tons of UDMH and nitrogen tetroxide propellant); the L33 second stage (33 metric tons of UDMH and nitrogen tetroxide), powered by a single Viking IV engine, and an H8 cryogenic upper stage (with 8 tons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen) and an HM-7 cryogenic engine.

Baseline operating specifications for Ariane 1 was the ability to place a 1,850-kg. payload into a 200 X 36,000 km. elliptical geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), inclined 7 deg. to the equator.

Ariane 1's maiden flight was in December 1979, and this vehicle performed a total 11 missions during its career – placing 14 satellites into orbit. Arianespace began its commercial operations with Ariane 1, using this launcher version for the first time in May 1984 to launch the U.S. Spacenet 1 satellite.

Only months after Ariane 1's entry into service, Europe decided in July 1980 on the development of an improved launcher. The H8 cryogenic upper stage was stretched by a length of 1.29 meters, increasing its capacity to 10.8 metric tons of propellant. (As a result of its larger capacity, this stage was given the H10 designation). Payload lift capacity to GTO was increased to 2,200 kg. for the upgraded launcher.

This version was named the Ariane 2, and it was also given the capability to have its first stage fitted with two solid-propellant strap-on boosters for additional thrust during initial ascent. The strap-on equipped Ariane was designated Ariane 3, and it was capable of carrying a 2,700 kg. payload into GTO.

The payload fairing for Ariane 2 and 3 was stretched to accommodate larger, heavier satellites, and the SYLDA multiple payload deployment system gave the Ariane series the ability to carry a pair of telecommunications satellites on a single mission.

Ariane 3 entered service first, making its maiden flight in August 1984. The maiden mission of an Ariane 2 occurred in May 1986. During their operational careers, Ariane 2 made 6 launches to place 5 satellites into orbit, while the Ariane 3 flew 11 times and carried 19 satellites into space.

It is interesting to note that Europe's decision to develop the Ariane 4 family – which was to become the standard for reliable and cost-efficient commercial launch services – was approved in January 1982, when Ariane 1 had flown only four times and only months after the first flight of the U.S. space shuttle.

The ELA-1 launch complex was the first major launch facility used for Ariane. The launch site originally was built for the Europa launch vehicle, and was then adapted for Ariane after the end of the Europa program.

The facility includes a launch control center and the launch zone. In the launch zone, Ariane vehicles were assembled on the launch pad and protected by a mobile service tower during the build-up and satellite integration process. The mobile tower was rolled back prior to liftoff.

ELA-1 was the only Ariane facility that operated in this manner. Its successor, ELA-2 – as well as the ELA-3 complex now used for Ariane 5 – separated the launcher assembly area from the launch zone – allowing one vehicle to be prepared on the pad for its upcoming mission while another undergoes its build-up in the assembly area.

The ELA-1 facility entered service for Ariane on December 24, 1979 with the first liftoff of an Ariane 1 on Flight L01. During its operational service with Ariane, a total of 25 Ariane 1, Ariane 2 and Ariane 3 vehicles were launched from ELA-1. The final flight from this complex occurred on July 11, 1989, when an Ariane 3 carried the Olympus satellite on Flight 32.

ELA-1 has been given a new career as the launch site for Arianespace’s lightweight Vega vehicle, which carries small- to medium-sized satellite payloads.  Refurbished and renamed the ZLV launch facility, it began the second operational life with Vega’s maiden flight from the Spaceport in February 2012.

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