2018 was another exciting year of mission activity with Arianespace’s three launchers: 6 Ariane 5, 3 Soyuz and 2 Vega, including four launches performed at a rate of one every two weeks in November/December. Looking forward to 2019!
As the world's reference for heavy-lift launchers, Ariane 5 carries payloads weighing more than 10 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) and over 20 metric tons into low-Earth orbit (LEO) -- with a high degree of accuracy mission after mission.
This performance ensures that Ariane 5 will be able to loft the heaviest spacecraft in production or on the drawing boards, and enables Arianespace to match up most telecommunications satellites for highly efficient dual launches -- a capability that has been proven by the company in Ariane missions since the 1980s.
Arianespace operates two versions of the Ariane 5, ensuring high-quality vehicles that are standardized and repeatable in production, and delivered ready for launch.
Ariane 5 ECA is the heavy-lift workhorse for missions to GTO, and usually carries two telecommunications satellite payloads. It is powered during the initial flight phase by a cryogenic core stage and two solid rocket boosters, followed by the use of a cryogenic upper stage for orbital injection of the payload.
The Ariane 5 ES is tailored for low-Earth orbit missions with the Automated Transfer Vehicle -- a resupply spacecraft for the International Space Station that weighs more than 19,000 kg. at liftoff. This Ariane 5 version also is capable of lofting satellites for Europe's new Galileo space-based navigation system. Its primary difference from the Ariane 5 ECA configuration is the use of a storable propellant upper stage, which can perform multiple burns to deploy payloads into the desired orbit.
The introduction of Soyuz missions from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana brings the industry's longest-operating launcher to the world's most modern launch base.
Arianespace flights with the medium-lift Soyuz began from the Spaceport in 2011, and now join the ongoing operations of Arianespace's heavy-lift Ariane 5, and the lightweight Vega vehicle -- which entered service in French Guiana in 2012.
Soyuz launchers flown from the Spaceport are evolved versions that include an updated digital flight control system, an increased-performance third stage and the larger Soyuz ST payload fairing.
The startup of Arianespace's Soyuz missions from French Guiana opened a new chapter in the history of this robust vehicle, which introduced the space age with the launch of Sputnik -- the world's first satellite -- in 1957. Since then, Soyuz has been in continuous production, demonstrating its unmatched reliability with more than 1,700 manned and unmanned missions performed to date.
Soyuz is a four-stage launch vehicle, and is designed to extremely high reliability levels for its use in manned missions -- which today support operations of the International Space Station.
The Arianespace commercial launcher family has grown with the addition of Vega, a new vehicle for flights with small- to medium-sized satellite payloads.
This European four-stage launcher is tailored to carry the growing number of small scientific spacecraft and other lighter-weight payloads under development or planned worldwide.
Vega's target payload lift capability is 1,500 kg. on missions to a 700-km. circular orbit.
With a height of 30 meters, Vega is operated by Arianespace from the Spaceport's SLV launch facility in French Guiana. This was the launch site for the original Ariane 1 and Ariane 3 vehicles, and it has been updated and adapted where needed to meet the operational requirements of this new lightweight vehicle.
Vega has an essential role within the family of European launchers, joining Ariane 5 (which is optimized for large satellites on missions to geostationary transfer orbit, and low-Earth orbits with very heavy payloads), and Soyuz (tailored for medium weight payloads for low-Earth orbit and certain smaller GTO spacecraft).
Arianespace's launcher family -- composed of the heavy-lift Ariane 5, medium-lift Soyuz and lightweight Vega -- provides performance and flexibility that enables the company to meet its motto: "any mass, to any orbit...anytime."
All three vehicles will operate side-by-side at the Spaceport in French Guiana, the world's only dedicated commercial launch site, and are supported by Arianespace's experienced teams.
As a result, Arianespace is the first service provider capable of offering mission performance truly tailored to its customers' requirements -- bringing an integrated approach that is unique to the launch industry.
Ariane 5 has been in commercial operation with Arianespace since 1999, and is the heavy-lift launcher of choice for satellite operators and manufacturers around the world.
Soyuz joined the Arianespace family in 2011, bringing the world's longest-operating launcher to the Spaceport for medium-weight telecommunications, scientific, and Earth observation missions.
Vega is a new-generation launch vehicle developed to provide highly efficient access to low-Earth and Sun-synchronous orbits for small and medium-sized payloads. On its initial launch in February 2012, this light-lift vehicle demonstrated its mission flexibility by orbiting nine satellites.
With the capabilities of all three vehicles in commercial service, Arianespace is targeting a flight activity level of approximately 10 missions annually from French Guiana -- consisting of an average seven Ariane 5 flights per year, plus two Soyuz missions and a Vega launch.