Ariane 4 - A challenge for Europe's space industry
Responding to market needs
In order to market Ariane, it was necessary to offer a launcher superior to its immediate competitors, the Atlas and Delta rockets.
At the same time, the demand for launchers became increasingly diversified, and satellites grew bigger and bigger. These rapid changes motivated the decision to build a new launcher to meet market expectations, based on the experience gained with the preceding Ariane series.
CNES proposed the Ariane 4 programme, which received French government approval in 1981, followed by ESA's accord in 1982. Nearly 60 companies from 11 European countries contributed to the project. France financed 52%, and its position as project manager also gave it responsibility for programme development and technical oversight.
Ariane 4's advantages
Ariane 4 stood out thanks to its modular approach. Six versions offered the ability to accommodate single or dual launches for a wide range of satellites weighing from 2,000 to 4,450 kg. The 6 variants differed in the type of boosters, using liquid or solid fuel. This original approach made the launcher very flexible in its operation.
The 6 versions of Ariane 4
** LPB: liquid-propellant strap-on booster
The keys to its success are its exceptional flexibility and excellent organization. Since March 1995, Ariane 4 has registered 73 straight launch successes—a world record for a commercial launcher.