A milestone Ariane 5 mission with ATV payload underscores Arianespace’s capabilities for Europe
Ariane 5 marked a key operational milestone and set a new record on its 60th consecutive “mission accomplished,” successfully orbiting the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Georges Lemaître and once again demonstrating Arianespace’s ability to serve the European space sector.
Arianespace’s heavy-lift workhorse delivered a record payload performance in lofting this fifth and final ATV spacecraft for the European Space Agency (ESA), which resupplies the International Space Station (ISS). With a mass of more than 20 metric tons at liftoff from the Spaceport in French Guiana, ATV Georges Lemaître is the heaviest payload ever launched by Europe.
Ariane 5 with ATV Georges Lemaître begins its climb-out from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone on another successful mission for this heavy-lift Arianespace workhorse vehicle.
“European space transportation is a formidable tool that brings space to the service of citizens…a tool that Europe has taken many years to build in achieving the level of excellence that we enjoy today,” said Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël during post-launch comments. “Ahead of fundamental decisions on the future of European launchers, Arianespace – in this context – is more mobilized than ever to continue this success with all its partners – institutional and industrial.”
Today’s mission – designated Ariane Flight VA219 in the company’s numbering system – lifted off at precisely at 8:47:38 p.m. from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone, according to the timing for the ATV payload’s orbital phasing to rendezvous with the crewed orbital facility.
During a flight lasting just over one hour, Ariane 5 delivered ATV Georges Lemaître into its targeted circular orbit. The ATV is scheduled to dock with the ISS on August 12, delivering supplies such as water, air, food and propellant to the facility, as well as being able to reboost the International Space Station into its nominal orbit when needed.
The landmark Flight VA219 also further underscores the continued reliability, performance and availability of Arianespace’s heavy-lift workhorse, which has achieved 60 successes in a row dating back to 2003 – an achievement that “went social” following the launch with the “#60inarow” and “#Ariane5” hashtags on Twitter.
Ariane 5’s consecutive on-target flights have comprised a variety of missions – ranging from delivering commercial telecommunications satellites to lofting ATV resupply vehicles for the International Space Station, while also sending scientific spacecraft on their way.
“As ATV Georges Lemaître continues its journey to the International Space Station, my first feeling – which is on behalf of everyone at Arianespace – is one of pride,” Israël said. “Pride in having such a powerful asset as Ariane 5, which is unparalleled in commercial space transportation today.”
A strong relationship with ESA
Arianespace’s Flight VA219 also marked another significant step in the partnership between Arianespace and ESA – the customer for this mission and a partner in the operation of its launcher family.
Israël noted the space agency’s constant commitment to the ATV program since its go-ahead in 1995. “With this fifth cargo spacecraft, more than 30 tons of propellant and cargo have been delivered by Europe to the ISS since 2008,” he continued. “Therefore, Europe has played a leading role in space cooperation, as represented by the ISS.”
Today’s mission marked the final ATV orbited for the European Space Agency, following four previous missions: “Jules Verne” (March 2008), “Johannes Kepler” (February 2011), “Edoardo Amaldi” (March 2012) and “Albert Einstein” (June 2013). With these flights, Ariane 5 has lofted a combined total payload lift weight of more than 100 metric tons to service the International Space Station.
Geneviève Fioraso, the French State Secretary for Higher Education and Research, saluted Arianespace and all of those who contributed to a “magnificent success,” bringing together private industry, space agencies and the public sector.
Her comments were echoed by ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, who added: “We’re in a risky business, and the only way to reconcile risk and success is through expertise. Expertise is something that you cannot just learn from handbooks or textbooks; it’s in the hands of men and women who work on these programs every day.”
Also recognized during the post-launch speeches was the dual role of Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor for both the Ariane 5 launcher and its ATV payload.
Eric Béranger, Head of Space Systems/Programs at Airbus Defence and Space, said today’s mission confirmed Ariane 5’s role as the “most reliable launcher in the world,” which once again met the expectations for performance and reliability.
On this mission, Ariane 5 continued its track record of accurate payload deliveries, with the following estimated orbital parameters at the injection of its cryogenic upper stage:
Perigee: 255.3 for a target of 256.5 km.
Apogee: 260.5 km. for a target of 261.5 km.
Inclination: 51.64 deg. for a target of 51.63 deg.
All five ATV missions to resupply the International Space Station utilized the Ariane 5 ES version, which is tailored for low-Earth orbit missions.
Flight VA219 is the second mission for Europe this year, following launch of the European Commission’s flagship Copernicus program’s initial Sentinel-1A Earth Observation spacecraft on Soyuz in April. Arianespace also has two more missions scheduled in 2014 for Europe: an August 21 Soyuz flight with the first two Full Operational Capability (FOC) satellites for the European Galileo space-based navigation program; and the European Space Agency’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), which is targeted for a November Vega mission.
This 2014 European activity comprises the company’s complete launcher family operating from French Guiana: Ariane 5, the medium-lift Soyuz and the lightweight Vega.
“By transforming to improve its overall competitiveness in this sector, and doing so with its partners, Arianespace will continue to provide the European space community with its triple competencies: industrial, commercial and services,” Israël said. “With the unique knowledge of its customers and the launchers it operates, Arianespace is ready to play a role in decisions in Luxembourg that will enable Europe to confirm its global leadership in launch services.”
In total, Arianespace has performed six launches to date from French Guiana during 2014, comprising three Ariane 5 flights, two missions with Soyuz and one Vega liftoff – a pace which keeps the company on track to meet its 2014 target of 12 missions, based on the availability of payloads scheduled for these launches.
Framed against the French Guiana sunset, Ariane 5 is shown at the Spaceport with its heavyweight payload of ATV Georges Lemaître.