Ariane 5 sets new records with Envisat
1 March 2002 was Envisat’s day, but it could never have happened without the magnificent performance delivered by the rocket that bore it aloft – Ariane 5, designed and built by Airbus Defence and Space.Flight 145, Ariane 5’s Envisat launch mission was, as befits its exceptional passenger, quite remarkable.
The only operational launch system capable of transporting such a large and heavy satellite, the Ariane 5G version carrying Envisat was the first Ariane 5 to use the elongated 17-metre long fairing to accommodate its eight-tonne, 10-metre tall cargo. The mission set a new record in payload carriage – both weight and height – for Ariane 5.
Lifting off under clear skies from its launch base at the European Space Centre in French Guiana at 01:07:59 GMT/Universal Time on 1 March 2002, Flight 145 was also the first Ariane 5 to head north out of Kourou, and the first to deliver its payload into a sun-synchronous orbit.
Twenty-six minutes and 35 seconds of absolutely textbook ascent later, spacecraft separation occurred, and Envisat was released into space on its mission to take environmental monitoring of the Earth into a new dimension.
And Flight 145 had a surprise bonus to offer. Ariane 5 placed Envisat into its target orbital location with such consummate precision that the satellite needed to use less of its own stock of fuel than planned to manoeuvre itself into its final position, with the result that it had extra reserves for its operational lifetime.
It is a neatly celebratory touch that Envisat was the 50th Airbus Defence and Space-built satellite to be launched by the European launcher.
Ariane 5 and Envisat certainly made history together that day.