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Farewell to Arian 5; Europe’s advanced rocket made its last launch

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The Ariane 5 rocket has a long history in space flights with nearly three decades of service in the field of launching satellites and spacecraft. This sophisticated rocket with a liquid hydrogen fuel central core and solid fuel boosters has been a symbol of Europe’s guaranteed access to space throughout its years of operation.

But now Ariane 5 has reached the end of the line. According to Space.comThe last launch of this rocket was carried out on Thursday at 01:30 a.m. Iran time from the space base of the European Space Agency in French Guiana, and during it, a French military communication satellite and a German communication satellite were sent to the geostationary transfer orbit. With the retirement of Ariane 5, which has almost as much flight history as NASA’s space shuttle, Europe will spend at least the next year without access to space.

Aryan history 5

The Ariane 5 rocket first launched in June 1996 in an unsuccessful launch, and its second flight was also a relative failure. But after that, Arians recorded 5 amazing records of 116 successful throws. For most of its history, the rocket was a reliable launcher that launched dozens of commercial satellites into geostationary orbit and ensured that European countries could rely on it to deliver their national security payloads.

Ariane 5 also successfully launched a number of important space science missions, including Rosetta, Herschel, Planck, Bepi Colombo and Joyce. The rocket made perhaps its most notable launch in December 2021, when it carried NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope into a highly precise orbit in a perfect launch.

Since James Webb did not require in-flight fuel to correct its orbit after launch, NASA was able to double its estimated lifespan for the space telescope. NASA systems engineer Mike Menzel said at the time that the agency’s analysis showed that the James Webb had enough fuel to last 20 years; At first, the life of the telescope was estimated to be 10 years.

The history of Ariane 5 is the sweet part of this rocket’s story, and the bitter part comes from Europe’s view of the future. Nearly a decade ago, European space leaders realized that the Ariane 5 was not cost-competitive with newer rockets, particularly SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster. As a result, they decided to build the next generation of their rocket called Ariane 6 to be more competitive in terms of price.

The new Ariane 6 rocket is largely a modernized version of the previous generation, benefiting from an updated design for its solid fuel booster and main engine named Vulcan. European space authorities announced that Ariane 5 will be ready for its first flight in 2020.

Unfortunately, currently (July 2023) it is clear that the Ariane 6 rocket will not fly until next year and probably at least in the summer of 2024. Officials from Arianespace, the company that makes the Ariane rockets, and other European entities declined to provide an estimated date for the first flight at the recent Paris Air Show. Until then, much work remains to be done, including hot burn testing of the rocket’s upper stage, flight software qualification tests, and assembly of the rocket on the launch pad.

These delays do not bode well for the European launch industry. It should be remembered that Europe built the Ariane 5 rocket to compete with the Falcon 9; But now, due to constant delays, the European Space Agency is forced to launch some of its most valuable missions on this SpaceX rocket.

For example, last week Europe launched its prized Euclid space telescope aboard a Falcon 9 rocket; Because the operational version of the Ariane 6 missile will not be available for that mission at least until 2025.

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