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Enabling & Support

N° 41–1996: Qualification of Ariane-5 plan of action for a resumption of flights

11 September 1996

Mr Jean-Marie Luton, Director General of ESA, and Mr Alain Bensoussan, Chairman of CNES, today presented a plan of action drawn up in response to the report submitted in July by the Ariane 501 Inquiry Board (see ESA-CNES joint press release of 23 July).

ESA and CNES, together with the firms concerned, have accepted all the Inquiry Board's recommendations, and in particular:


  • correction of the software in the inertial reference system (SRI);


  • changes to the functional simulation facility to make the qualification tests more representative of the flight environment;


  • review of all embedded software.

The industrial architect will henceforth be assuming the role of "software architect" and this will allow it not only to verify all software incorporated in equipment but also to ensure the overall functional integrity of the launcher. All the software concerned will be subject to qualification reviews in which outside experts will take part.

Additional action is also being taken, over and above the Board's recommendations.

The working methods used in the Launcher Qualification Review have been modified, one change being to introduce specialised audits on the most complex launcher systems to provide closer analysis wherever this is deemed necessary. A comprehensive review of the launcher's qualification is being undertaken with, in particular, a systematic effort to identify "degraded" modes of operation that could affect launcher elements, whether redundant or not.

For the conduct of the lead-up to the 502 flight, CNES and the industrial architect have set up an enhanced joint team that will report to a supervisory body consisting of three senior managers drawn from the two organisations.

Action is already under way on all these fronts. Assuming the programme of work identified and subject to confirmation of its satisfactory completion, the aim is for the Ariane 502 campaign to begin in February 1997 for a launch in mid-April. The launch of Ariane 503 will also form part of the Ariane-5 qualification process and could take place in September 1997.

Concerning the payloads to be flown on the two launchers, the initial development approach is confirmed:


  • Ariane 502: two technological measurement payloads for validation of a dual launch into geostationary transfer orbit plus the amateur radio satellite AMSAT;


  • Ariane 503: the Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator (ARD, a technology demonstration capsule for a future European manned space transport vehicle) and a commercial payload.

The financial impact through to the end of qualification of the failure of the first launch is at present estimated at 288 MECU. It is currently envisaged that this cost would be funded by:


  • a reallocation of funds for the Ariane-5 programmes;


  • an additional slice of the development programme;


  • a contribution by industry and the income from the Ariane 503 commercial payload.

    Mr Luton and Mr Bensoussan having reaffirmed their confidence in the Ariane-5 programme as a whole and voiced the determination of the Member States and industrial teams participating in it, Mr Charles Bigot, Chief Executive of Arianespace, the firm responsible for the exploitation of Ariane launch systems, expressed his firm's total support for the plan of action to secure undisputed qualification of Ariane- 5; he felt sure the launcher would be all the stronger for these few months of additional development effort. He added that Arianespace continued to enjoy the undiminished confidence of its customers and would meet all its obligations and the continuing strong demand on the world market. His firm was ready for commercial exploitation of Ariane-5, Europe's space transport vehicle for the 21st century.