A series of launch vehicles built by the European Space Agency, mainly to put telecommunications satellites into orbit two at a time. The first flight was in 1979. The launch site is the Centre Spatial Guyanais, at Kourou in French Guiana. Ariane is a three-stage rocket using liquid fuels. Small solid-fuel and liquid-fuel boosters can be attached to its first stage to increase carrying power. Since 1984 it has been operated commercially by Arianespace.
A more powerful version of the rocket, Ariane 5, was launched on 4 June 1996. However, it pitched over and disintegrated. A fault in the software controlling the take-off trajectory was to blame. In October 1998, another Ariane 5 rocket completed a successful mission, launching a dummy satellite into orbit. The model has had further successes, including the launch of India's Insat 3B satellite in March 2000, and the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft launched on 2 March 2004.
Plans to launch the more powerful Ariane 5 EC-B were cancelled in 2005.
Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.