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.