Ariane Programme Board meets at Europe’s Spaceport

Programme board members in front of the Ariane 5 model
27 March 2006

The 223rd meeting of the Ariane Launcher Programme Board was held on 22 and 23 March 2006 at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The day before the meeting, board members visited various technical facilities and inspected ongoing construction work at the spaceport.

On the morning of 21 March, programme board members visited the Ariane 5 launch complex, including the CDL3 launch control centre, the launcher integration building and the Ariane launch zone. In the afternoon, they visited the propellant manufacturing plants, viewed the inert engineering model of the Vega launcher’s P80 first stage and inspected the construction works for the Vega and Soyuz launch zones.

During the Programme Board meeting, reports on the various launcher activities were received.

Vega – a crucial year of tests to come

Artist's impression of Vega on the launch pad
Artist's impression of Vega on the launch pad

The first firing test of Vega’s Zefiro 9 third-stage solid rocket motor took place at Salto de Quirra in south-eastern Sardinia during December 2005. The current year will even be more intense with three firing tests, two in Sardinia and one at Europe’s Spaceport.

In parallel, the mechanical tests at system level have started and will be completed prior to the system critical design review. At the Vega Launch Zone, the new launch pad will take shape with the realisation of the access ramp for the transfer of the launcher stages and the integration of the mobile gantry. This will be a major step towards the combined tests that will take place in 2007, putting together the launch vehicle and the ground segment components to check the interfaces and the operational concept that will be applied for the qualification campaign.

Soyuz at Europe’s Spaceport

Artist's impression of Soyuz lifting off from Europe's Spaceport

The earthworks at the future Soyuz launch site have made rapid progress, thanks to a favourable dry season in French Guiana. Completion of the ground works is now expected several months ahead of schedule. The construction site was officially opened on 16 November 2005 and work on the excavation of the exhaust ducts began immediately.

Following the complementary Preliminary Design Review (PDR) which took place at the end of June 2005, a detailed analysis of the safety environment during launch operations has been carried out and several meetings have taken place in co-operation with the Russian partners.

A key meeting took place in Kourou during the first week of February 2006 and concluded with the confirmation of the launch control building location. An action plan was defined for optimising Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) and Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO) lift-off trajectories, taking into account launcher performance and safety constraints.

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