Today Europe confirmed its lead in space transport systems for the 21st Century. Ariane-5, on its third qualification flight, left no doubts as to its ability to deliver payloads to geostationary transfer orbit.
The new heavy launcher lifted off in glorious sunshine from the Guiana Space Centre, Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on Wednesday 21 October 1998 at:
13h 37min 21 sec, Kourou time 16h 37min 21sec, UT 18h 37min 21sec, Paris time.
The solid-propellant boosters separated as planned at an altitude of about 62 km, 2mn 23sec after H0. The fairing was jettisoned 3mn 13sec into the flight, followed by separation of the cryogenic main stage at 9mn 59sec at 139 km. At H0 +12 mn, at an altitude of 209 km, the Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator was released and 3mn 14sec later the storable-propellant upper stage propelled the stage assembly and Maqsat 3, a representative mockup of a commercial satellite, towards its injection point.
At H0+33mn 07sec, the upper stage engine shut down and Maqsat 3 was injected into geostationary transfer orbit. The parameters calculated at this precise point in time were: perigee 1,027 km for 1,028 ((3 km) predicted apogee 35,863 km for 35,898 ((200) predicted inclination 6.999( for 6.998( ((0.05°) predicted.
In Kourou, Fredrik Engström, ESA's Director of Launchers and Ariane 503 Flight Director, confirmed: "The third Ariane-5 flight has been a complete success. It qualifies Europe's new heavy-lift launcher and vindicates the technological options taken by the European Space Agency."
For Gérard Brachet, Director General of CNES, the French space agency: "The success of this third Ariane-5 qualification flight closes the development phase of this new European launcher. CNES is proud to have brought the project assigned to it by the European Space Agency to a successful conclusion. Its continuing task will now be to provide support to Arianespace as the Ariane-5 launcher goes into the commercial exploitation phase."
Jean-Marie Luton, Chairman of Arianespace, emphasised: "I should like to pay tribute to the European Space Agency, CNES and all the industrial and operational teams here in French Guiana and in Europe on having successfully completed this programme. With their support, we will now be offering our customers a launch service combining performance, power, flexibility and availability in line with today's commercial demands and those of tomorrow."
Speaking from the European press centre at Evry, Antonio Rodot(, the Director General of ESA, made the following comment: "The European Space Agency is already working to meet the challenges of the 21st Century with increasingly powerful and versatile launchers designed to handle the widest possible range of space missions." For Alain Bensoussan, Chairman of CNES: "France is proud to have helped make this ambitious European programme a success. The Ariane programme, consolidating as it does Europe's standing in the world space community, is an outstanding illustration of Europe's capacity to pool its best scientific and industrial teams in pursuit of a common goal."
In 18 hours' time, a first overall assessment including the ARD mission will be presented at a press conference in Kourou.