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- 101st launch of an Ariane 5
- 76th consecutive nominal firing of the Vulcain® 2 engine
- 101st consecutive nominal firing of the EAP solid propellant boosters
- 141st consecutive nominal firing of the HM7B engine
Launcher performance further enhanced byVulcain 2 engine improvement For its 5th launch of 2018, Ariane 5 lifted off from the European spaceport in Kourou (French Guyana) to place the BepiColombo spacecraft into its Earth escape trajectory, enabling it to free itself from Earth’s gravitational pull and begin its seven-year voyage to the planet Mercury, via Venus.
For this particularly complex mission, Ariane 5 freed BepiColombo from Earth’s gravitational pull and placed it on a transfer trajectory to Mercury, through the Solar System, by propelling it to an absolute velocity of 10.99 km/s (39,570 km/h) – 1.15 km/s (4,140 km/h) more than for the usual transfer orbit — to geostationary position. This mission benefits from the first application of the Vulcain 2 power increase (+2.25%), decided in the framework of the Ariane 5 ECA launcher performance improvement program.
Ariane 5 usually launches satellites of about 10 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit, but this time the task was to launch a payload of only four metric tons, while taking the launcher to a velocity greater than that of a standard launch so that the satellite could reach Earth escape orbit. Specific adjustments were therefore necessary for piloting and propulsion, and even though this did not entail any modifications to the launcher’s structure, it did mean additional verifications, which required the work of 30 ArianeGroup engineers for two years.
The BepiColombo mission is a joint initiative of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). It comprises two scientific orbiters
- the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), which will produce a complete map of Mercury,
- and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO, also dubbed MIO by JAXA), which will analyze the planet’s magnetic field and magnetosphere – plus a Mercury Transfer Module (MTM).
As the industrial lead contractor for development and operation of the Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launchers, ArianeGroup coordinates an industrial network of more than 600 companies in 13 European countries, including more than 350 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). ArianeGroup oversees all the industrial activities, from the performance improvements and studies necessary for Ariane 5 up to its production, the provision of data or software specific to each mission, without forgetting marketing activities via Arianespace. This chain includes equipment and structures, engines manufacturing, integration of the various stages and finally launcher integration in French Guiana.