ESA’s Ariane launcher is one of the biggest commercial success stories in the history of space. It began in 1973 after the nations of Europe realised that independent access to space and a pioneering space programme go hand in hand.
The Ariane-5 heavy-lift launcher was conceived by ESA to ensure that Europe maintained its competitive edge in the global launcher market, with its versatility allowing it to meet a wide range of launch needs.
The development of the Ariane family of launchers has spawned an expert Europe-wide industry and infrastructure, supporting both Ariane’s construction and launch.
Vega is the new European small launcher, benefitting from the vast experience gained with Ariane in terms of launcher design, propulsion systems, structures, avionics and operations.
By extending affordable access to space for smaller missions, Vega will enhance Europe’s launch flexibility. Soyuz rockets, to be launched from the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) from 2008 onwards, will complement the Ariane-5 and Vega launch capabilities.
Beyond Ariane-5 and Vega, ESA and Europe’s space industry are considering new designs to improve performance and reduce the cost of a next-generation launcher.