Mission Update

Mission Update

The successful Ariane 5 GS mission in photos

December 21, 2007

Arianespace's successful year-ending mission today was the 180th flight of an Ariane launcher and the 36th for its workhorse Ariane 5 vehicle.

For this record sixth Ariane 5 mission of 2007, an Ariane 5 GS launcher version delivered a payload mass of 6,185 kg. Of this total, 5,464 kg. was the combined weight of the RASCOM-QAF1 and Horizons-2 satellites, with the other mass represented by the satellites' associated installation/interface hardware and Ariane's SYLDA 5 dual payload dispenser system.

Our photo selection reviews the final phase of activity for this on-target flight, from Ariane 5's rollout at Europe's Spaceport to its early evening ascent. (Click on the images for a larger version):

The Ariane 5 GS launcher's upper portion is detailed in this image, taken just prior to vehicle's transfer from the Final Assembly Building to the Spaceport's ELA-3 launch zone. This mission used a medium-length Ariane 5 fairing, which protected RASCOM-QAF1 and Horizons-2 during the first three minutes of the launcher's climb-out. The 13.8-meter long fairing, built by Switzerland's Oerlikon Space AG, is a lightweight structure produced panels with an expanded aluminum honeycomb core and two carbon fiber/resin skins.

Surrounded by the ELA-3 launch zone's four lightning protection towers, the Ariane 5 awaits its final countdown. Astrium Space Transportation is the Ariane 5's prime contractor and integrator, delivering the assembled launcher to Arianespace for the final payload integration and launch operations. The December 21 mission was the 32nd commercial mission of Ariane 5 since the launcher's service entry with Arianespace in October 1999.

Orange-colored pipes visible in this photo are part of the ELA-3 launch zone's water deluge system. The high-volume delivery of water provides acoustic damping on the launch pad during the operation of Ariane 5's cryogenic main engine and its two solid rocket boosters during ignition and climb-out.

A close-up of the Ariane 5 on its mobile launch table details the cryogenic core stage, which is straddled by the launcher's solid propellant boosters (partly visible to the left and right). The core stage carries approximately 157 tons of liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen propellant for its Vulcain main engine – which burns continuously for about 580 seconds, delivering the essential part of the kinetic energy required to place the Ariane 5's payloads into orbit. Snecma Moteurs supplies the Vulcain engine.

Ariane 5 lifts off from the ELA-3 launch zone under the power of its Vulcain cryogenic engine and the two solid rocket boosters. The 31-meter tall boosters are loaded with 240 tons solid propellant each, and burn for approximately 130 seconds during the Ariane 5's initial ascent. Production of the boosters is performed at French Guiana in a dedicated manufacturing zone at the Spaceport, with the solid propellant motor supplied by Europropulsion, and integration performed by Astrium.

Ascending from the Spaceport just before sunset in French Guiana, the Ariane 5 GS lights up a deck of clouds as it heads to another on-target success. Arianespace's workhorse launch continued its payload delivery precision on this mission, with the following provisional orbital parameters at injection of its upper stage: a perigee of 585.2 km for a target of 584.8 km. (±4); an apogee of 35,874 km. for a target of 35,865 km. (±240); and an inclination of 5.49 degrees for a target of 5.50 degrees (±0.06°).

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