A rocket that created a streak of 82 successful launches! Yes, you read it right! 82 successful launches in a row, with a total of 109 launches as of the date and still more to go. Ariane 5 is one of the most successful heavy-lift launch vehicles developed and operated by Arianespace for the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA originally designed Ariane 5 to launch the Hermes spaceplane, and thus it is rated for human space launches. After the launch of 15 August 2020, Arianespace has already signed the contracts for the last eight Ariane 5 launches, left to launch before the transition to the new Ariane 6 launcher.

Ariane 5 ES with ATV-4 on board on its way to the launch pad in June 2013.
Ariane 5 ES with ATV-4 on board on its way to the launch pad in June 2013. Photo credits: DLR German Aerospace Center

Start was not so good

During the maiden flight of the Ariane 5 on June 4th, 1996, a software error caused the rocket to self-destruct 37 seconds after launch. A data conversion from 64-bit floating-point value to 16-bit signed integer value to be stored in a variable representing horizontal bias caused a processor trap (operand error) because the floating-point value was too large to be represented by a 16-bit signed integer.

Watch the video below.

Ariane 5 rocket First launch explosion. Video Credits: Amazing Info TV

Staging details

The first stage of the Ariane 5 is powered by a single Vulcain 2 engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to deliver 1,390 kN of thrust.
Strapped to each side of the first stage core are solid rocket boosters (SRBs) similar to what was used by the Space Shuttle to launch. The SRBs are not recovered and are allowed to sink to the bottom of the ocean after use.
The second stage engine of the Ariane 5 also burns liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and can be restarted, if required, to place separate payloads in different orbits.

Good to know

The Ariane 5 has been selected by NASA because of its reliability and payload capacity to launch the US$10 Billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2021

Ariane 5 in full glory! Photo Credits: ESA
Ariane 5 in full glory! Photo Credits: ESA

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