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(a-ree-an ) The three-stage launch vehicle built for the European Space Agency (ESA). The building program was officially approved in 1973, financed mainly by France. The original version, Ariane-1, first flew in Dec. 1979; its first successful operational flight took place in June 1983. Responsibility for production and marketing of Ariane was then transferred to the company Arianespace, which had been set up in 1980 to finance, build, sell, and launch Ariane; its first launch occurred in May 1984.

The launch site for Ariane is near the equator, at Kourou, French Guiana. The rocket is optimized for launching craft into geostationary orbit (that is, to an altitude of 36 000 km above the equator) for communications and meteorological purpose, into lower Earth orbits for scientific missions, and into Sun-synchronous Earth orbits for terrestrial observations. Ariane is an expendable probe, unlike NASA's reusable space shuttle.

Ariane-1 could carry a payload of up to 1.8 tonnes (1800 kg) into geostationary orbit. As the mass of satellites increased, Ariane-1 gave way, from 1984, to the more powerful Ariane-2 and Ariane-3. These in turn were superseded, from 1988, by the six versions of Ariane-4 – one ‘bare’, the others fitted with two or four solid-fuel booster rockets, depending on the payload mass. The most powerful Ariane-4, with four liquid-fuel boosters, can lift up to 4.46 tonnes into geostationary orbit.

Ariane-5 is radically different from the earlier Arianes. Shorter and squatter, it has two sections. The main unit is the ‘lower composite’, with engine and propellant flanked by two solid boosters, and is the same for all missions; the ‘upper composite’ is matched to the mission and its payload. It is designed to launch one, two, or three satellites weighing up to about 7 tonnes into geostationary orbit, 23 tonnes into low Earth orbit, or 10 tonnes into Sun-synchronous orbit. Its first launch in 1996 ended in disaster with total destruction after a flight of only 40 seconds. But by 2002 it had successfully launched several commercial craft, mostly communications satellites. The catastrophic launch failure of an upgraded version of Ariane-5 in December of that year, with the loss of two communications satellites, proved a major setback for ESA. Following the resumption of its launch program in April 2003, Ariane-5 continued to be used for commercial work and also for important European science missions – the lunar orbiter SMART-1 and the comet interceptor probe Rosetta. In 2007 Ariane-5 will simultaneously carry both the Planck and Herschel Observatories into space.

Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006
References in classic literature ?
Then they had a conversation befitting the day and their time of life: about the next pigeon-match at Battersea, with relative bets upon Ross and Osbaldiston; about Mademoiselle Ariane of the French Opera, and who had left her, and how she was consoled by Panther Carr; and about the fight between the Butcher and the Pet, and the probabilities that it was a cross.
Flight VA249: Arianespace will orbit Intelsat 39 and EDRS-C with Ariane 5
That's less than half the cost of an Ariane 5 from Airbus  (( NASDAQOTH:EADSY )  subsidiary Arianespace, leading Ariane CEO Alain Charmeau to warn that SpaceX is going to "( kick Europe out of space " unless Europe does something about this -- and soon.
That's less than half the cost of an Ariane 5 from Airbus subsidiary Arianespace, leading Ariane CEO Alain Charmeau to warn that SpaceX is going to "kick Europe out of space" unless Europe does something about this -- and soon.
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Chennai: All is set for the launch of India's 40th communication satellite GSAT-31 early on Wednesday by an Ariane 5 rocket belonging to Arianespace, said the European space agency.
Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel said, "GSAT-31 was the 23rd ISRO satellite orbited by Arianespace and Ariane-series launchers, tracing the relationship back to IndiaaACAOs APPLE small experimental communications spacecraft, lofted in 1981 by an Ariane 1 version."
The launch was carried out using the Ariane 5 rocket, which also carried a communications satellite built by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
1 / 2 The Ariane 5 rocket took off from French Guiana on schedule.
European heavy-lift launch vehicle Ariane 5 successfully lifted off from the spaceport of the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana on September 25 evening.