On 9 November 2004 the Ariane-5 booster’s solid rocket motor was test fired in the Booster Engine Test Stand at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. This test is part of ESA’s Ariane research and technology support programme, better known as ARTA.
ARTA 3’s objectives were to confirm the modifications to be implemented on the next production batch of Ariane-5 boosters to be flown in 2006. Previous to this, two other tests had taken place: ARTA 1 in 2000 and ARTA 2 in 2001.
The test firing was successful and the first results show a good correlation with predictions. Altogether there were five main modifications to the booster fired on Tuesday:
- configuration of the welded rings of the solid rocket motor segments (a new manufacturing process)
- new nozzle incorporating modifications in the design and type of materials
- new thermal protection of the inner face to reduce pressure oscillations and acoustic levels
- a mixed configuration of propellant loading from two different suppliers
- increased propellant loading of segment S1
Inspections carried out immediately after the test showed no degradation of the different elements of the specimen solid rocket motor. A detailed examination has now commenced and the results should be available within two weeks. Once all the results are received a decision will be taken on whether to accept the modifications tested.
As always, immediately after the trial the impact on the local environment was assessed. Firing only takes place when meteorological conditions are favourable, to ensure that any impact is limited.
Altogether 12 ESA Member States participate in ESA’s ARTA programme. Its main objectives are to maintain the qualification level of the Ariane-5 launcher during its production phase by carrying out regular sampling tests on the most sensitive elements of the launcher. ARTA also contributes to improving Ariane-5 performance by testing modifications, deciding on which elements are now obsolete and qualifying improved manufacturing processes to reduce costs.