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Ariane 4

ariane 4 rocket, ariane 4
The Ariane 4 was an expendable launch system, designed by the Centre national d'études spatiales while being manufactured and marketed by its subsidiary Arianespace The launcher became justly known as the "workhorse" of the Ariane family Since its first flight on 15 June 1988 until the final flight, which was performed on 15 February 2003, it attained 113 successful launches out of 116 launches to have been conducted

In 1982, the Ariane 4 programme was approved by the European Space Agency ESA Drawing heavily upon the preceding Ariane 3, it was designed to provide a launcher capable of delivering heavier payloads and at a lower cost per kilogram than the earlier members of the Ariane family The Ariane 4 was principally an evolution of the existing technologies used, as opposed to being revolutionary in its design ethos; this approach quickly gained the backing of most ESA members, who funded and participated in its development and operation Capable of being equipped with a wide variety of strap-on boosters, the Ariane 4 gained a reputation for being an extremely versatile launchernot verified in body

Once in service, the launcher soon became recognised for being ideal for launching communications and Earth observation satellites, as well as those used for scientific research During its working life, the Ariane 4 managed to capture 50 per cent of the market in launching commercial satellites, soundly demonstrating Europe's ability to compete in the commercial launch sector1 In February 2003, the final Ariane 4 was launched; Arianespace had decided to retire the type in favour of the newer and larger Ariane 5, which effectively replaced it in service


  • 1 Development
    • 11 Origins
    • 12 Teaming and construction
    • 13 Further development
  • 2 Design
  • 3 Operational history
  • 4 Comparable rockets
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
    • 61 Citations
    • 62 Bibliography
  • 7 External links



In 1973, eleven nations decided to pursue joint collaboration in the field of space exploration and formed a new pan-national organisation to undertake this mission, the European Space Agency ESA2 Six years later, in December 1979, the arrival of a capable European expendable launch system was marked when the first Ariane 1 launcher was successfully launched from the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana3 The Ariane 1 soon became considered to be a capable and competitive launcher in comparison to rival platforms offered by the Soviet Union and the United States of America, and it was quickly followed by improved derivatives in the form of the Ariane 2 and Ariane 3 By early 1986, the Ariane 1, along with the Ariane 2 and Ariane 3, had become the dominant launcher on the world market4

In January 1982, the ESA issued its authorisation for the development and construction of the Ariane 4; the development programme had the stated objective of increasing the usable payload by 90 per cent5 The Ariane 4 would be a considerably larger and more flexible launcher that the earlier members of its family, being intended to compete with the upper end of launchers worldwide In comparison, while the Ariane 1 had a typical weight of 207 tonnes and could launch payloads of up to 17 tonnes into orbit; the larger Ariane 4 had a typical weight of 470 tonnes and could orbit payloads of up to 42 tonnes6 Work on the Ariane 4 was substantially eased via drawing heavily on both the technology and experiences gained from producing and operating the earlier members of the Ariane rocket The total development cost for the Ariane 4 was valued at 476 million European Currency Units ECU in 19865

Posed with the requirement to produce a rocket with substantially greater thrust, the design team considered various approaches to achieve this7 One concept studied had involved the addition of a fifth engine to an enlarged first stage of the Ariane 3, but was found to involve a very high level of redesign work to achieve this; instead, the first stage was elongated to hold 210 tonnes of propellant instead of the 145 tonnes present on the Ariane 3 While the second and third stages remained identical to the Ariane 3, a range of strap-on boosters were developed to be applied to the type, designed to gradually increase the rocket's payload capacity7 Overall, the Ariane 4 was 15 per cent smaller than the Ariane 38

In effect, the Ariane 4 was an improved and developed derivative of the earlier Ariane 3, primarily differing through the application of various solid-fuelled and liquid-fuelled boosters, the latter being the only all-new design feature of the Ariane 4; at this point, the practice of using liquid boosters was uncommon, having only previously been used in the Chinese space program7 Another innovation of the Ariane 4 was the dual-launch SPELDA Structure Porteuse Externe de Lancement Double Ariane fairing8 This had the function of allowing a pair of satellites, one placed on top of the other; several different SPELDA nose fairings could be installed, including normal and extended models The SPELDA was considerably lighter than its predecessor; the guidance system also used much more accurate ring laser gyroscopes8 According to aviation author Brian Harvey, the advances present in the design of the Ariane 4 represented a conservative and evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, philosophy8

Teaming and constructionedit

As the Ariane 4 programme took shape, it gained the support of Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Britain, France, Sweden, and Switzerland8 The main contractors were Aerospatiale responsible for the first and second stages, Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm produced the liquid-fuelled boosters, Société Européenne de Propulsion SEP engine manufacturer, Matra equipment bay assembly, Air Liquide production of third stage tanks and insulation, BPD Snia maker of solid-fuelled boosters, and British Aerospace/Contraves Space AG manufacturers of the fairing8 for their work on the Ariane 4, the Launch Team were subsequently awarded the Space Achievement Award by the Space Foundation in 20049

In conjunction with the development of the Ariane 4 itself, a new purpose-built launch preparation area and launch pad for the rocket, collectively designated as ELA-2, was constructed at the Guiana Space Centre to service the Ariane 4 and provide a launch rate of 8 launches per year this feat was near-unprecedented for a single large rocket, other than within the Soviet Union10 Unlike the earlier ELA-1 which had been used for the previous members of the Ariane family and other rockets, preparation activity for the rocket would be performed in a purpose-built 80-meter tall hall rather than on the pad itself; the completed rocket was then be transported using a specially-designed railway to slowly traverse from the hall to the launch pad, taking one hour This railway provided the additional benefit of enabling faulty rockets to be withdrawn from the pad and be substituted for relatively quickly7

On 15 June 1988, the first successful launch of the Ariane 4 was conducted8 For this first test flight, it was decided to fire the most powerful version of the rocket, designated 44LP, equipped with four main engines, two solid boosters and two liquid boosters; it was also furnished with the multi-satellite SPELDA fairing 50 seconds after take-off, the solid boosters would be expended and be detached in order to reduce the rocket's weight8 143 seconds after take-off, the liquid boosters also detached, further lightening the vehicle The maiden flight was considered a success, having put multiple satellites into orbit8

Further developmentedit

For the V50 launch onwards, an improved third stage, known as the H10+, was adopted for the Ariane 411 The H10+ third stage featured a new tank, which was 26 kg lighter, 32 cm longer, and contained 340 kg more fuel, which raised the rocket's overall payload capacity by 110 kg and increased its burn time by 20 seconds11

Even prior to the first flight of the Ariane 4, development of a successor, designated as the Ariane 5 had already commenced12 In January 1985, the Ariane 5 had been officially adopted as an ESA programme It lacked the high levels of commonality that the Ariane 4 had with its predecessors, and had been designed not only for launching heavier payloads of up to 52 tonnes and at a 20 per cent cost reduction over the Ariane 4, but for a higher margin of safety due to the fact that the Ariane 5 was designed to conduct manned space launches as well, being intended to transport astronauts using the proposed Hermes space vehicle13 Development of the Ariane 5 was not without controversy as some ESA members considered the more mature Ariane 4 to be more suited for meeting established needs for such launchers; it was for this reason that Britain chose not to participate in the Ariane 5 programme14 For some years, Ariane 4 and Ariane 5 launchers were operated interchangeably; however, it was eventually decided to terminate all Ariane 4 operations in favour of concentrating on the newer Ariane 515


The Ariane 4 was the ultimate development from the preceding members of the Ariane rocket family Compared with the Ariane 2 and 3, the Ariane 4 featured a stretched first by 61 per cent and third stages, a strengthened structure, new propulsion bay layouts, new avionics, and the SPELDA Structure Porteuse Externe de Lancement Double Ariane dual-payload carrier The basic 40 version did not employ any strap-on motors, while the Ariane 42L, 44L, 42P, 44P, and 44LP variants all used various combinations of solid and liquid boosters Originally designed to place 2-42 tonne payloads in geostationary orbit, the six Ariane 4 variants, aided by strap-on boosters, enabled the launch of payloads in excess of 49 tonnes on several occasionscitation needed According to Harvey, the Ariane 4 launcher had reduced the launch costs per kilo by 55 per cent in comparison to the original Ariane 18

The rocket was used in a number of variants - it could be fitted with two or four additional solid PAP - Propulseurs d'appoint à poudre or liquid fueled booster rockets PAL - Propulseurs d'appoint à liquide The launcher included a satellite payload carrier system called Spelda Structure porteuse externe de lancement double Ariane, French for 'External carrying structure for Ariane double launches' for launching more than one satellite at a time The rocket captured nearly 60% of the world’s commercial launch services market, serving both European and international clients16 Atop the third stage was a vehicle equipment stage which housed a computer that performed various functions, including sequencing, guidance, control, tracking, telemetry and an explosive-based self-destruct8

The Ariane 4 AR 40 was the basic version, with three stages: 584 m high, a diameter of 38 m, a liftoff mass of 245 t and a maximum payload of 2100 kg to GTO or 5000 kg to Low Earth orbit LEO Main power was provided by four Viking 2B motors, each producing 667 kN of thrust The second stage was powered by a single Viking 4B motor, and the third stage was equipped with an HM7-B liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen motor The Ariane 4 AR 44L, which was outfitted with the maximum additional boost of four liquid fuel rocket strap-ons, was a four-stage rocket, weighing 470 t and capable of transferring a payload of 4730 kg to GTO, or alternatively 7600 kg to LEO

5 of the 6 versions of Ariane 4
Model PAL PAP Payload to GTO, kg Launches Successes Failure date
AR 40 - - 2100 7 7 -
AR 42P - 2 2930 15 14 1 December 1994
AR 42L 2 - 3480 13 13 -
AR 44L 4 - 4720 40 39 22 February 1990
AR 44LP 2 2 4220 26 25 24 January 1994
AR 44P - 4 3460 15 15 -

Operational historyedit

Main article: List of Ariane launches

In June 1988, the inaugural flight of the Ariane 4 occurred, which was a success Since then, the Ariane 4 has accomplished 116 flights with a success rate of more than 97 per cent On 22 February 1990, the eighth Ariane 4 launch to take place, during which the first failure occurred with the rocket exploding 9 km above Kourou17 Following an exhaustive investigation, which found that an unknown foreign object had obstructed a water line, a total of 44 modifications were recommended to prevent any reoccurrence The following 26 launches were all completed successfully thereafter11

The system became the basis for a European satellite launches with a record of 113 successful and three launch failures Ariane 4 provided a payload increase from 1700 kg for Ariane 3 to a maximum of 4800 kg to geostationary transfer orbit GTO The record for Ariane 4 to GTO was 4946 kg18

On 15 February 2003, the final launch of Ariane 4 rocket occurred, placing Intelsat 907 into geosynchronous orbit19 Arianespace had decided to phase out the Ariane 4 launcher in favour of the newer heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket, which had already been in service for some years In 2011, the medium-lift Soyuz ST complemented the offering of launch vehicles from the Guiana Space Centre Spacecraft launched by the Soyuz reused the payload platform and dispenser which had been originally designed for the Ariane20

Comparable rocketsedit

  • Delta II
  • Long March 2
  • Soyuz-U

See alsoedit

  • Comparison of orbital launchers families
  • Tsyklon-4 Ukrainian carrier rocket with fairing derived from Ariane 4



  1. ^ "Ariane 4 / Launchers / Our Activities / ESA" European Space Agency 14 May 2004 Retrieved 13 June 2015 
  2. ^ Harvey 2003, pp 161-162
  3. ^ Harvey 2003, p 169
  4. ^ Harvey 2003, p 172
  5. ^ a b "Encyclopedia Astronautica - Ariane" Encyclopedia Astronautica Retrieved 13 June 2015 
  6. ^ Harvey 2003, p 178
  7. ^ a b c d Harvey 2003, p 179
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Harvey 2003, p 180
  9. ^ "Space Achievement Award" Space Symposium Retrieved 13 June 2015 
  10. ^ Harvey 2003, pp 178-179
  11. ^ a b c Harvey 2003, p 183
  12. ^ Harvey 2003, pp 184-185
  13. ^ Harvey 2003, p 185
  14. ^ Harvey 2003, p 186
  15. ^ Harvey 2003, p 193
  16. ^ "Ariane 4, un défi pour l'Europe spatiale" Ariane 4 - A challenge for Europe's space industry in French CNES Retrieved 13 June 2015 
  17. ^ Harvey 2003, pp 182-183
  18. ^ "Ariane 4" Airbus Defence and Space Retrieved 13 June 2015 
  19. ^ "Intelsat 907 Launched on Final Ariane 4 Mission" SpaceRef 15 February 2003 Retrieved 13 June 2015 
  20. ^ "Soyuz User's Manual" PDF Arianespace March 2012 Retrieved 13 June 2015 


  • Harvey, Brian Europe's Space Programme: To Ariane and Beyond Springer Science & Business Media, 2003 ISBN 1-8523-3722-2

External linksedit

  • ESA Ariane 4 launchers
  • FAS Ariane 4
  • A cutaway drawing of the Ariane 4

ariane 4, ariane 4 launch, ariane 4 pictures, ariane 4 rocket, ariane 4 viking, ariane 4 viking pics history, ariane 40, ariane 40 r/b satellite, ariane 40+ r/b, ariane 42b

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