Envisat soars into orbit
The European Ariane-5 launch vehicle was the best candidate to carry Envisat into orbit. In its tall fairing, there was enough space to hold the 10 × 4 × 4 metre large satellite, including its service module and solar array. And its 1,500 toness of thrust were powerful enough to lift the overall 740 tonnes into low Earth orbit, at an altitude of 800 km.
The new Ariane-5 design was developed between 1985 and 1996. It was built using the capabilities of the leading space technology companies of 12 European countries, and using the resources of 12,000 people.
Since the first launch of an Ariane rocket in 1979, its mission success rate was of 98%, making it the most reliable launcher in the world.
During the night of 28 February 2002, ESA launched its Envisat satellite on an Ariane 5 launcher from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Liftoff was witnessed by dozens of cheering engineers, scientists, and project members at the launch site as well as at the ESA centres across Europe. Rising into a clear sky, the Ariane 5 propelled Envisat towards a lofty vantage point some 800 km above the Earth’s surface.
After a flawless liftoff, the Ariane 5 placed Envisat into a sun-synchronous orbit, allowing ESA ground controllers at the Space Pperations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, to take, for the first time ever, full control of the most complex satellite ever built in Europe.
"This has been a particularly exciting day for ESA and the European space community as a whole," said José Achache, ESA’s then Director of Earth Observation, the night of the launch. "Europe is taking an important lead in global observations for worldwide environmental needs, and Envisat is going to make a significant impact on the future of remote sensing of the Earth".
"Now that Envisat is in orbit, the culmination of many years’ work can really begin, and we are looking forward to the environmental benefits the satellite is going to bring to Europe," added Mr Achache.
Height up to 52 m
Diameter of 5.4 m
Liftoff mass of 710 tonnes
Maximum payload mass of 5.97 tonnes
Ariane 5 is designed to meet the challenges of the new millennium. It meets several requirements, such as 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 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 communication satellites, Earth observation and scientific satellites 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 the most powerful launcher of 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.
Ariane '10 tonnes'
Developed by ESA with the support of its Member States, Ariane 10 tonnes confirms the growth potential built into the original design of the Ariane 5 launcher. For the first time ever, Europe is able to place a payload weighing more than 10 tonnes into geostationary orbit.