Overview | Ariane 1-3 | Ariane 4 | Milestones

Ariane heritage > Overview

Arianespace's operation of the Ariane 1-4 launcher series marked a turning point in the international space sector.

These capable vehicles established Europe's independent access to space, enabled Arianespace to become the world leader in commercial launch services and introduced the concept of dual payload launches for telecommunications satellites.

Since entering service in 1979, the Ariane launch services have been envied – and emulated – by operators around the world.

The first vehicle was Ariane 1 – the cornerstone launcher that established Ariane as the reference vehicle for the commercial space industry. Its first flight was in December 1979, and Ariane began its operations with this launcher in May 1984. During its career, 11 Ariane 1 missions were performed, placing a total of 14 spacecraft into orbit. Payload lift capability of Ariane 1 was 1,800 kg. into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

Arianespace introduced the increased-lift Ariane 3 version next (its first flight was in August, 1984), increasing the GTO payload capacity to 2,700 kg. This vehicle used a stretched third stage and larger payload fairing, and was equipped with two solid propellant strap-on boosters. During its operating career, a total 11 Ariane 3s were launched, carrying 19 payloads into space.

The Ariane 2 used the same launcher configuration as Ariane 3, but without the strap-on boosters. The initial successful launch of Ariane 2 was in November 1987, with this vehicle performing a total of 6 flights that orbited 5 payloads. Payload lift capability to GTO was 2,200 kg.

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