A real success story - technologically, politically and financially
In 1973 eleven countries, called together by the European Space Agency (ESA), decided to take Europe down its own path in the space field: and so the Ariane programme was born. Six years later in 1979, Ariane 1 was launched from Kourou.
Following development work on variants 1, 2 and 3, Ariane 4 was able to draw on the experience gained from these earlier variants. Its inaugral flight took place in 1988 and over the years, Ariane 4 proved itself to be one of the best launchers in its class, both in terms of reliability and performance. In just 14 years, 116 Ariane 4s were launched from the Kourou spaceport, placing 182 satellites in orbit - altogether around 420 tonnes of sophisticated space tools, used for the most diverse range of applications.
The fruit of collaboration between some 40 companies in 11 European countries, Ariane 4 has proven European industry’s ability to realise a highly technical product, adapted to market demands. Originally designed to place 2-4.2 tonne payloads in geostationary orbit, the six Ariane 4 variants, aided by strap-on boosters, enabled the launch of payloads in excess of 4.9 tonnes on several occasions. Ariane’s advanced performance, particularly its reliability and flexibility as well as its highly cost-effective dual-launch capability, enabled it to gain a nigh-on 60% global market share of all commercial launches.
Replaced by Ariane 5 in 2003, Ariane 4 remains the launcher industry benchmark of the 1990s and a prime example of effectively working together across commercial, institutional and national boundaries.
Airbus Defence and Space has played a key part in this success. As the industrial design authority, it was involved in the development of each of the launcher variants, and manufactured and delivered all the Ariane 4 stages, the solid and liquid strap-on boosters and payload adapters as well as the flight programmes, the vehicle equipment bay as well as the SPELDA dual-launch structures.