On 22 June, Ariane 5 was successful with VA257, its first mission of 2022, sending two telecommunications satellites into orbit. There are now only four remaining flights for the European launcher before it gives way to Ariane 6.
For 26 years, Ariane 5 has emerged as the multi-purpose European launcher, sending into space satellites and exploration probes as well as automatic cargo ships to the ISS. 22 June featured its 113th mission as the handover to Ariane 6 is looming.
The Success of VA257
At 1850 hours local time in Kourou on 22 June the countdown hit zero, marking the ignition of Ariane 5’s Vulcain engine then that of the two lateral stages of powder acceleration (or EAPs). The launcher, built by ArianeGroup, then left its launch pad for the Guyana sky, carrying two satellites under its fairing.
Below, a video summary by Arianespace, a subsidiary of ArianeGroup responsible for marketing the launcher.
For its 113th mission, Ariane carried a payload totalling 9807 kg. The two “passenger” satellites, MEASAT-3d (Malaysia) and GSAT-24 (India), will perform telecommunications services.
VA257 is the first flight of Ariane 5 in 2022. It therefore follows VA256 in December 2021, when the launcher’s great precision enabled the Webb space telescope to be sent to Lagrange point L2, saving the telescope fuel and extending its expected life.
Arianespace recalled in a press release that “after this mission, there remain four Ariane 5s to launch, before Ariane 6 takes over.” It should be noted that during an appearance on the BBC, the Director-General of the European Space Agency (ESA) indicated that Ariane 6’s inaugural flight would not happen in 2022, but in 2023.