Countdown to launch

Access the image

An Ariane-5 launch campaign usually lasts about five weeks. During the early stages, the teams prepare and check the rocket and the satellites. Although the work is done by different teams, the campaign is organised so that everything is ready in time.

Twelve days before launch, work begins to integrate the satellites on top of the launcher. This takes place in the Final Assembly Building.

One day before lift off, the Ariane 5 is taken by rail to the launch pad. Once the mobile launch table is connected to the launch pad, the final countdown begins.

The main fuel tanks are filled, the launcher subsystems are checked and the flight programme is loaded into the computer. Finally, at –6 min 30s, the countdown becomes automatic.

“10, 9, 8, …”. The Director of Operations completes the countdown from behind security glass in the Jupiter Control Centre, 12 km from the launch pad.

“… 3, 2, 1, décollage”. The engines ignite and the launcher lifts off. Flying on automatic pilot, the Ariane 5 is carefully monitored as it heads east or north over the ocean.

Forty minutes later, the news arrives that the spacecraft have been orbited. Mission complete.

Last modified 12 October 2011