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Enabling & Support

N° 19–1996: The first Ariane-5 flight did not result in validation of Europe's new launcher

4 June 1996

It was the first flight test of an entirely new vehicle each of whose elements had been tested on the ground in the course of the past years and months.

Of an entirely new design, the launcher uses engines ten times as powerful as those of the Ariane-4 series. Its electronic brain is a hundred times more powerful than that used on previous Ariane launchers. The very many qualification reviews and ground tests imposed extremely tough checks on the correctness of all the choices made. There are, however, no absolute guarantees. A launcher's capability can be demonstrated only in flight under actual launch conditions.

A second test already scheduled under the development plan will take place in a few months' time. Before that, everything will have to be done to establish the reasons for this setback and make the corrections necessary for a successful second test. An inquiry board will be set up in the next few days. It will be required to submit, by mid-July, an entirely independent report identifying the causes of the incident and proposing modifications designed to prevent any further incidents.

Ariane-5 is a major challenge for space activities in Europe. The skills of all the teams involved in the programme, coupled with the determination and solidarity of all the political, technical and industrial authorities, make us confident of a successful outcome.