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Contact: Karina De Castris
European Space Agency

Success for Europe's heavy lift launcher

View of the Ariane 5 ECA Flight 164 launch on 12 February 2005 from Europe's spaceport. Credits: ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE-Service Optique CSG
Click here for a full image.

12 February saw the beginning of a new era when the heavy lift version of Europe’s Ariane 5 launcher took off from Kourou in French Guiana.

Everything on the test flight of the Ariane 5 ECA went according to plan. The success of Ariane Flight 164 paves the way for the commercial introduction of the new version in mid-2005.

Over the next few years, it will gradually replace the current Ariane 5G. It will then become Europe’s workhorse for lifting payloads weighing up to 10 tonnes to geostationary orbit and beyond.

February 2005 - Flight 164, the Ariane 5 ECA, on its way from the Final Assembly Building to the launch pad Credits: ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE-S. CORVAJA
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

The new launcher is powered by upgraded twin solid boosters that provide 60 tonnes more thrust at lift-off. The main stage has a new, high-thrust Vulcain 2 engine, while the upper stage is powered by a high-performance engine used on the Ariane 4.

All of this additional rocket power means that the Ariane 5 ECA can carry two large commercial satellites to orbit – a key feature in the success of previous Ariane launchers.

On this flight, the launcher carried three payloads. The first to be released was XTAR-EUR, a 3600-kg commercial communication satellite.

The other two satellites were flown on behalf of ESA. The 129-kg SloshSat minisatellite will monitor what happens to 33.5 litres of water as it moves around inside an onboard tank.

The Maqsat B2 was attached to the launcher’s upper stage. It provided dramatic images of the flight, including separation of the solid boosters and jettisoning of the Sylda dual launch adapter.