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The early morning launch on 15 February 2003 marked the final flight of an Ariane 4, and the 116th mission of this launcher version. On this, its last flight, it succesfully put into orbit a telecommunications satellite for Intelsat.
Ariane 4 entered service in 1988 and successfully orbited 158 primary payloads (plus 24 auxiliary passengers) with a combined mass of well over 400 tonnes.
Ariane 4 has been justly referred to as the ‘workhorse’ of the Ariane family. Since its first flight, V22 on 15 June 1988 it has made 113 successful launches. Ariane 4 has proved ideal for launching satellites for communications and Earth observation, as well as for scientific research.
This launcher was extremely versatile. The first stage could hold two or four strap-on boosters, or none at all. This meant that it could lift into orbit satellites weighing from 2000 to nearly 4800 kg in geostationary transfer orbit, nearly three times as much as its predecessor, the Ariane-3 launcher.
During its working life Ariane 4 captured 50% of the market in launching commercial satellites, showing that Europe can more than hold its own in the commercial launch market. Ariane-4's role will now be taken over by the Ariane-5 launcher.