Ariane 5 ME
Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
Also Known As: Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution
EADS Astrium* and Snecma (*) lead contractor
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Description: The Ariane launch vehicle family was developed to provide Europe with an independent space access capability. The primary target for the Ariane launcher are commercial satellites. The first Ariane 1 was launched in 1979 and since then Arianespace has strengthened its position becoming the world's leader in commercial launch services. The Ariane 1-3 were based on a three stages configuration comprising the L140 first stage powered by four strap-on Viking V engines, the L33 second stage powered by one Viking IV rocket motor, and the H8 upper stage powered by the HM-7 cryogenic engine.
The Ariane 5 ME (Midlife Evolution) is an improved variant of the Ariane 5 launcher being developed by EADS Astrium since 2003. It offers an increase of 20% in performance levels and a 20% reduction in cost per kilogram of payload compared with the current Ariane 5 ECA space launch rocket. Besides, Ariane 5 ME features two-in-one launcher design to better anticipate needs on the commercial market and for European institutions. It will be capable of placing up to 12 metric tons of payload in geostationary orbit. The European Space Agency (ESA) Council should take a decision on the new space launch system development in November 2012. The Ariane 5 ME might enter service by 2017.
The primary upgrade for the Ariane 5 ME launcher is a new upper stage equipped with a Vinci re-startable cryogenic engine, developed by Snecma. The nose fairing will also be extended three meters to accommodate larger and heavier payloads. The ME version will also have an expanded range that covers all types of satellite orbits. For example, it will be capable of simultaneously placing two satellites of over five tons each in orbit.
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