Innovation Culture

In close-up: Ariane 5, the record rocket! A look back at five memorable moments 05-20-2020 |  4 minutes


Over nearly 24 years, European flagship launcher Ariane 5 has constantly boosted its performance and notched up many extraordinary exploits.


37 476

2004, 2 March: Flight VA158

The fastest speed ever achieved by an Ariane rocket was 37 476km/h (10,410m/s), for injection of the comet-chasing Rosetta probe into an interplanetary trajectory to head off on its 10-year journey. At this speed, the trip from Paris to New York is only nine minutes and 22 seconds!

    01 01
    Flight VA158
    © ESA-CNES-Arianespace


    2008, 9 March: Flight VA181

    At around 20 tons, the ATV cargo supply carrier to the ISS is by far the most massive payload ever lofted by an Ariane rocket, and needed a specifically adapted, strengthened version, the Ariane 5 ES with its re-ignitable upper stage. After a perfect performance on its maiden flight with ATV-1 Jules Verne, Ariane 5 ES flawlessly launched all four following ATVs.

      01 01
      ATV-1 Jules Verne on its way to the ISS
      © ESA

      0 = 13.06.48

      2017, 1 June: Flight VA237

      The first Ariane mission to launch satellites for Europe’s global navigation system Galileo, deploying a specially modified version of the Ariane 5 ES, had no time to lose – there was no launch window for this flight. The rocket had to lift off at 13.06.48 precisely or not at all. So it did.

        01 01
        Flight VA233
        ©ESA-CNES-AE / CSG Service Optique

        10 865

        2017, 1 June: Flight VA237

        Ariane 5 set (again!) a new record for payload lift of two telecommunications satellites to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) – with a total payload performance of 10 865kg, this was over 100kg more than the rocket’s previous personal best, and represents a 15% payload capacity increase since entering service.

          01 01
          Flight VA237
          ©ESA-CNES-AE / CSG Service Optique


          2018, 26 September: Flight VA243

          A classic flight, standard dual launch of two telecommunications satellites with a gross mass of 10,827kg, faultless performance, successful mission. Just that this was the 100th Ariane 5 launch, and a further demonstration that launching 10 metric tons into orbit is now normal business for Ariane 5!

            01 01
            Flight VA243
            ©ESA -CNES-AE / CSG Service Optique - J.M. Guillon

            Ariane 5 has not yet written the final page of its space legend.