Airbus Military, Astrium and Cassidian are now Airbus Defence and Space


Ariane 5: placing the heaviest loads in orbit

Ariane 5 is a major element in Europe’s unrestricted, independent access to space. Astrium, as prime contractor and lead manufacturer, is one of the keys to this success, with experience dating back to the beginnings of the European space industry, the Diamant and early Ariane launchers...

The new-generation Ariane 5 continues the tradition of its famous predecessors, Ariane 1 to 4, but features a radically new design. Since 2005, the latest heavy-lift version of Ariane 5 has provided increased Geostationary Transfer Orbit payload capacity, up to 10 tonnes on dual launches, to meet the evolving demands of both commercial and institutional markets. It incorporates a new cryogenic upper stage carrying over 14 tonnes of propellants, and a strengthened cryogenic main stage, powered by the new Vulcain 2 engine.

Astrium has a dual role on this launcher as:

  • Sole prime contractor (since May 2003), in charge of co-ordinating some 64 companies across Europe. This new arrangement means that Astrium delivers to Arianespace, the launch services marketing company, a complete, fully-tested, cost-effective launcher, in line with demanding market conditions.
  • Lead manufacturer, responsible for the production of all Ariane 5 stages, the vehicle equipment bay, the dual launch system upper part structure (SYLDA) and flight software, along with a number of subassemblies. Astrium teams are on hand in Kourou, French Guiana, to support Arianespace during launch campaigns.

Astrium is now the single point of contact for the European Space Agency (ESA), and prime contractor for future developments on Ariane 5 which will start with the development of the Ariane 5 ME (Midlife Evolution) launcher with a new cryogenic upper stage, which will be powered by the new Vinci engine providing an increased Geostationary Transfer Orbit payload capacity of up to 12 tonnes on dual launches.


LauncherAriane 5



Did you know ?

20,100 kilogrammes...

... is the greatest mass placed into any orbit by an Ariane launcher, achieved on 16 February 2011 with the ATV-2 Johannes Kepler. Before the 200th launch, the record was held by the first ATV, Jules Verne, at 19,350 kg, on Flight 181 (Ariane 5 ES).

Discover all the other amazing data about Ariane and ATV, plus all the Ariane flights by clicking here.

Animation presenting the history of Ariane rocket launches. Special focus on the 200th flight carrying the ISS supply craft ATV-2 ‘Johannes Kepler’, a major event for Astrium, prime contractor for both the Ariane launcher and the ATV.