April 22, 1999
The Ariane 503 mission in October 1998 completed Ariane 5 launcher qualification. This new step forward marks the beginning of commercial service for the first operational new-generation heavy launcher.
The launcher preparation campaign is underway at the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana, in the launcher integration building. In early May, the lower part of the launcher is slated for transfer to the final assembly building. The Ariane 504 launcher will be ready for launch at the end of May, in line with the original schedule.
Preparation of the Telkom 1 satellite is now in progress at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, California, while preparation of the AsiaStar satellite is underway at Alcatel Space in Toulouse. The launch date will be set in conjunction with these two customers, according to the projected arrival of the satellites in Kourou.
Paris, 30 October 1998
Ariane 503/ARD : A successful complete European space mission Europe has moved a step closer to flying its own complete space missions with the highly successful flight of an automatic capsule, the Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator (ARD).
ARD was released during the Ariane 503 flight on 21 October, shortly after separation of the launcher's cryogenic main stage (at an altitude of about 216 km) 12 minutes after lift-off from the Guiana Space Centre, Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Engineers analysing data from its sub-orbital flight reported this week that all the capsule's systems had performed well and according to expectations.
ARD reached an altitude of 830 km and splashed down to within 4.9 km of its target point in the Pacific Ocean between the Marquises and Hawaii after one hour and 41 minutes. It was recovered some five hours later and will undergo more detailed technical analysis in Europe.
Engineers analysing real-time telemetry from the flight have reported that all electrical equipment and propulsion systems functioned nominally. Telemetry systems and reception stations all performed well, and the onboard GPS receiver worked satisfactorily during the entire flight except, as expected, during black-out in reentry.
During reentry the heatshield temperature reached 900?C and the cone and heatshield thermal protection was in a perfect state after retrieval. Throughout the flight ARD remained airtight and perfectly intact.
Built by Aerospatiale (France) for ESA, the ARD has a 'classical' Apollo capsule design and is packed with the most advanced technologies to test and qualify new technologies and flight control capabilities for atmospheric reentry and landing.
During the mission it recorded and transmitted to the ground more than 200 critical parameters for analysis of the flight and behaviour of onboard equipment.
Although not strictly a prototype of a possible future European Crew Transport Vehicle (CTV), which could fly to and from the International Space Station, ARD is a major step towards providing greater confidence in Europe's capabilities in reentry technologies for use not only in the frame of crew and equipment transport but also for future re-usable launchers.
For the first time ever Europe has flown a complete space mission - from launching a vehicle into space to recovering it safely. This is a major step forward in Europe's capability for developing and operating spacecraft that can return to Earth carrying people or equipment.
Kourou, le 21 octobre 1998
The telemetry link was established with the Libreville downrange station at H0 + 17min and with the first ARIA tracking aircraft at H0 + 1h15min, prior to the black-out phase (black-out caused by atmospheric ionisation phenomena).
On emergence from black-out, the link was restored with the second ARIA-2 at H0+1h22min. Visual contact was established between the capsule and the helicopter airborn from the "Prairial" vessel.
Splashdown took place at H0+1h43min at a point situated between the Marquises and Hawaii.
The recovery vessel is currently en route for the splashdown location and is expected to arrive at 22h00 UT.
Built by Aerospatiale (France) for ESA, the ARD tests and qualifies new technologies and flight control capabilities during atmospheric reentry and landing.
Paris, 21 October 1998
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)br>
predicted apogee: 35,863 km for 35,898 (±200)
predicted inclination: 6.999° for 6.998° (±0.05?) predicted
In Kourou, Fredrik Engstrom, 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 Gerard 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.
Paris, 14 October 1998
At this site you will also be able to follow in near-real time a videotransmission of the launch, currently scheduled for 20 October with a launch window from 18 :00 to 19 :30 CET, and download the latest pictures. A historical review of the Ariane 5 programme and a digest of the main technical data concerning the 503 launcher and campaign are also available.
Vous pourrez egalement suivre en direct le lancement, prevu le 20 octobre 1998 entre 18h00 et 19h30 (heure de Paris), ainsi que telecharger les dernieres photos. Un historique du programme Ariane 5 et des donnees techniques sur le lanceur et la campagne 503 sont egalement disponibles.