Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space successfully completes 50th consecutive Ariane 5 launch

• Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor for Ariane 5, the world’s most reliable commercial launcher in service today

• Ariane Flight 208 placed a world record 10.2 tonnes in geostationary transfer orbit, 130 kg more than the previous record, at the same cost

• Two new flight computers were deployed, increasing the performance of the European launcher’s “nerve centre”

2 August 2012 - Airbus Defence and Space, Europe’s leading space technology company, has completed the 50th consecutive successful launch of Ariane 5, extending its existing world record for launchers currently in service.

This flight is the first to feature two new flight computers. Offering four times more memory and 10 times faster computing power, the computers enhance the launcher’s flight reliability and responsiveness.

The launch also set a new world record for geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) payload capacity of nearly 10.2 tonnes, 130 kg more than the previous record. The two satellites respectively weighed 6,100 kg and 3,300 kg, in addition to the remaining weight of the transponders and the SYLDA dual launch system, some 780 kg.

“Without this steady increase in the capacity of Ariane 5, it would not have been possible to send these two satellites into orbit in a single launch,” said a delighted Michel Freuchet, Airbus Defence and Space’s Director of Launchers. “We’re not going to stop here either. When Ariane 5 ME becomes operational in 2017, the European launcher will be capable of placing more than 12 tonnes in geostationary orbit.”

Since Airbus Defence and Space became the prime contractor in 2003 and thanks to investments by the company, its payload capacity has increased from an initial GTO capacity of 9.4 tonnes to 10.2 tonnes today. Moreover, Ariane 5 continues to place in low-Earth orbit the heaviest items ever sent into space, among them the International Space Station’s European Automated Transfer Vehicle, the ATV, which alone weighs more than 20 tonnes. Not only is Europe’s Ariane 5 the most reliable commercial launcher on the world market, it also has the largest payload capacity.

As with every launch, Airbus Defence and Space’s control centre near Paris supervised a team of 150 people who analysed flight parameters remotely from Europe. It is their job to advise, in real time, the three Airbus Defence and Space managers based in Kourou on the mission’s risks and chances of success. These three managers (the Ariane 5 Development Manager, Production Manager and Technical Director) have the final say in decisions relating to the flight.

“This 50th consecutive successful launch of Ariane 5 would not have been possible without the commitment of Airbus Defence and Space’s teams, our partners and our suppliers,” said Airbus Defence and Space CEO Alain Charmeau. “Each launch represents a new challenge requiring more than 600 inspection phases, the involvement of more than 4,500 people in 12 countries across Europe and more than a million working hours.”

To see an animated presentation of the history of Airbus Defence and Space and Ariane (you can select by year or by Ariane version, and see all the payloads for which Airbus Defence and Space was also prime contractor), click here.


About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third in the world. In 2011, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover close to €5 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide, mainly in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands.

Airbus Defence and Space is the sole European company that covers the whole range of civil and defence space systems and services.

Its three business units are: Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure; Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment;  Airbus Defence and Space for comprehensive fixed and mobile end-to-end solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security and broadcast satellite communications equipment and systems, and bespoke geo-information services, worldwide.

Airbus Defence and Space is a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2011, the Group – comprising Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 49.1 billion and employed a workforce of over 133,000.


Press contacts:

Jeremy Close (Airbus Defence and Space UK)                                                         Tel.: +44 (0)1 438 77 3872

Astrid Emerit (Airbus Defence and Space FR)                                                        Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 51 80 36

Ralph Heinrich (Airbus Defence and Space GER)                                                     Tel.: +49 (0) 89 607 33971

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP)                                                   Tel.: +34 91 586 37 41


Ariane 5