The heavy-lift Ariane 5 enters commercial service with an on-target qualification flight

Flight 164’s Ariane 5 ECA is shown in the ELA-3 launch zone, ready for liftoff.

Arianespace’s increased-performance Ariane 5 ECA is now in full commercial service following today’s successful mission from the Spaceport in French Guiana, which carried a multi-element payload into orbit.

Climbing out on the power of its up-rated Vulcain 2 cryogenic main engine and increased-thrust solid propellant boosters, Flight 164’s Ariane 5 left the ELA-3 launch zone and climbed into clear skies.

The launch vehicle’s impressive ascent, which was video streamed live on, clearly showed the first phase of flight, including separation of the two solid boosters approximately 2 min. 21 sec. into the flight.

Flight 164 also deployed Sloshsat, a small cube-shaped spacecraft developed to study fluid dynamics in microgravity.

An instrumentation payload called Maqsat-B was carried as well to log parameters during the Ariane 5 ECA’s flight and to record video images using a pair of cameras. Maqsat-B was designed to remain mounted to the Ariane 5 launcher throughout the mission.

The heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA version qualified on today’s mission has a payload lift capability to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) of 9,600 kg., compared to 6,700-kg. for the baseline Ariane 5 Generic.

The Vulcain 2 has increased thrust for the Ariane 5 ECA.

Upgrades to the Ariane 5 ECA include a more powerful Vulcain 2 cryogenic main engine (which has its thrust increased by 20 percent from the Ariane 5 Generic’s Vulcain engine); the use of a cryogenic upper stage powered by the HM7B engine (which was the engine used in the Ariane 4’s third stage); and the incorporation of solid rocket boosters with a increased propellant load in the S1 segment for more thrust at liftoff and a lighter-weight nozzle This evening’s liftoff was briefly delayed due to a problem with a pressure reading. The countdown resumed within the remaining time for the launch window, and Ariane 5 successfully roared away from the ELA-3 launch complex, trailing the bright flames and exhaust from the Vulcain 2 and solid boosters.

Flight 164’s multi-payload deployment sequence began with XTAR-EUR’s release approximately 26 min. later at an altitude of 897 km. The jettisoning of the SYLDA dispenser system followed by about 2 min., with the separation of Sloshsat completing the deployment sequence approximately 3 minutes later.