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Ariane 4 is justly known as the ‘workhorse’ of the Ariane family. Since its first flight on 15 June 1988 it has made over 100 successful launches. The Ariane 4 has proved ideal for launching satellites for communications and Earth observation, as well as for scientific research.
This launcher is extremely versatile. The first stage can hold two or four strap-on boosters, or none at all. This means that it can lift into orbit satellites weighing from 2000 to nearly 4800 kg in GTO, nearly three times as much as the Ariane-3 launcher. Now its role is gradually being taken over by the Ariane-5 launcher and the last Ariane-4 flight is expected to take place in 2003.
Ariane 4 has captured 50% of the market in launching commercial satellites showing that Europe can more than hold its own in the commercial launch market.
Ariane 5 is designed to meet the challenges of the new millennium. It meets several requirements: the ability to launch larger satellites, the increasing use of low orbits for servicing the International Space Station and the need to reduce costs while maintaining a high reliability.
Its first successful launch took place on 30 October 1997 while its first operational flight occurred in December 1999, when it launched ESA’s X-ray Multi-Mirror (XMM). Ariane 5 has proved highly reliable and economic, and has been used to launch satellites for communications, Earth observation and scientific research into geostationary orbits and Sun-synchronous orbits. ESA had to build a new launch site at Europe’s spaceport in Kourou for this new member of the Ariane family as well as facilities to make the solid boosters needed to launch this, the most powerful launcher in the Ariane family. Ariane 5 can be used for launches into geostationary orbit, medium-Earth orbit and low-Earth orbit, as well as for launches to other planets.