Launching Ariane

Ariane 5 Launches BepiColombo on its way to Mercury 10-20-2018 |  3 minutes

  • On its 5th launch of the year, Ariane 5 successfully placed the BepiColombo spacecraft in its Earth escape trajectory with an absolute speed close to 40,000 km / h
  • Ariane 5 was specially adapted for  this mission
  • Launcher performance  further enhanced by Vulcain 2 engine improvement
  • 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.

This is the first time that an ECA version of the Ariane 5 launcher has reached this type of orbit; previously, an A5G+ version of Ariane 5 was used for the Rosetta Earth-escape mission in March 2004.

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.

Alain Charmeau CEO of ArianeGroup

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.

"I would like to thank all the ArianeGroup and Arianespace teams who once again demonstrated the quality of their commitment and pride in serving such amazing ESA missions.”

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.

Download the press release

Ariane 5 Launches BepiColombo on its way to Mercury

Press Contacts

Astrid EMERIT – T. +

Julien WATELET – T. +33.6