ESA title
Enabling & Support

Adapted Ariane 5 ME

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ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Transportation / Launch vehicles
Adapted Ariane 5 ME
Adapted Ariane 5 ME

Main data  Adapted
Ariane 5 ME
 Height  up to 53 m
 Diameter  up to 5.4 m
 Liftoff mass*  ~800 t
 Payload mass**  up to 12 t

* dual-satellite launch configuration
 ** into GTO GTO–DD, which corresponds to GTO injection followed by a direct deorbiting (DD) of the upper stage


Adapted Ariane 5 ME

Following the November 2012 ESA Council meeting at Ministerial level in Naples, Italy, Ministers secured investments for detailed definition studies of the new Ariane 6 launcher and activities on the Adapted Ariane 5 ME (Mid-life Evolution), with the goal of developing as many commonalities as possible between the two vehicles.

To limit the overall development cost, time and risk for the combined development of the Adapted Ariane 5 ME and Ariane 6 upper stage commonality assessments have been made. These are related to technical and organisational changes, aimed at increasing its competitiveness.

The objective is to maximise commonalities while avoiding delays to commercial exploitation of the two launchers and striving to minimise recurring costs for Ariane 6.

This is reflected in the Adapted Ariane 5 ME design and production facilities as well as the Ariane 6 design choices. So, the Adapted Ariane 5 ME upper stage and fairing diameters remain at 5.4 m.

This modernised launcher will respond to the need for: more flexibility in accommodating payloads by way of a dual-launch configuration; an upper stage reignition capability for stage deorbiting to mitigate orbital debris; the capability to complete complex missions such as planetary exploration.

The qualification flight for the Adapted Ariane 5 ME is scheduled for mid-2018, followed by a gradual introduction into service. The decision regarding completion of the development of this launcher will be taken at the next ESA Ministerial Council meeting, in December 2014, in the context of the overall strategy of launcher development for the next 10 years.

Adapted Ariane 5 ME could replace Ariane 5 ECA and Ariane 5 ES to become Europe’s new workhorse launcher until the arrival of the new Ariane 6. 

Adapted Ariane 5 ME elements

Adapted Ariane 5 ME configuration
Adapted Ariane 5 ME configuration

Adapted Ariane 5 ME consists of three parts. 

1. Lower composite (EAP and EPC)

The lower composite is identical to that used on the current Ariane 5 ECA and ES versions. It is fully operational and comprises two solid-propellant boosters (EAP: Etage d’Accélération à Poudre) and the cryogenic main stage (EPC: Etage Principal Cryotechnique), equipped with the Vulcain 2 engine.

2. Upper composite (Vinci, VEB and supporting structure)

The upper composite comprises:

  • The new cryogenic upper stage containing 28 t of propellant (liquid hydrogen and oxygen) with the Vinci new-technology engine, providing 180 kN of thrust and reignition capabilities;
  • The Vehicle Equipment Bay (VEB), ‘the brain’, autonomously controls the whole vehicle, better integrated in the upper stage structure;
  • The new supporting structure (1780 mm diameter) interfacing with the payload.


3. Launcher upper part (fairing and Sylda 5)

The launcher upper part comprises:

  • The new, longer fairing protects the payload at liftoff and during atmospheric flight (5.4 m diameter, 20 m high). The fairing is split into two pyrotechnically and jettisoned more than 3 minutes after liftoff, at an altitude above 100 km.
  • The new structure accommodating the lower and upper satellites, Sylda 5 (Système de Lancement Double Ariane 5): 4.6 m diameter, 8 m high.

Adapted Ariane 5 ME missions

A number of new versatile cryogenic upper stage concepts have been assessed. The improved key performance and capability comes from the use of a new engine, Vinci, with a thrust of 180 kN. It uses advanced technologies, such as an expander cycle and a deployable nozzle.

Adapted Ariane 5 ME upper stage and Vinci engine characteristics
Adapted Ariane 5 ME upper stage and Vinci engine characteristics


This evolution will allow the Adapted Ariane 5 ME to handle a wider range of missions:

  • Upper stage reignition allows the injection of satellites in a higher orbit (GTO+: supersynchronous orbit), which reduces the payload’s propulsion needs to reach the target geostationary orbit (GEO) and maximises the launcher’s performance.
  • Versatility opens the door to a wide range of combinations and pairing of different types of institutional missions, such as Earth-escape, GTO-escape, GEO and Moon or Mars missions, with improved precision and performance.
  • The guaranteed direct deorbiting (GTO-DD) and/or injection into graveyard orbits will keep the space environment free of space debris.
Adapted Ariane 5 ME orbit
Adapted Ariane 5 ME orbit

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