Ariane 5 makes history with a successful web launch

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Ariane 5 makes history with a successful web launch

Press release from: Arianespace
Posted: Saturday December 25 2021

On Saturday, December 25, 2021 at 9:20 a.m. local time, an Ariane 5 rocket took off from the Guyanese Space Center, European spaceport in Kourou, in French Guiana (South America), by injecting the Webb space telescope, developed by NASA in partnership with ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), in its transfer orbit. The telescope was successfully separated from the launcher 27 minutes after takeoff.

The telescope now undertakes a 29-day journey to reach Lagrange’s second point.

· On the third day, the heat shield will begin to deploy. On the eleventh day, the secondary mirror will begin to position itself.

· Between the 13 and 14th Day, the primary mirror, composed of 18 hexagonal segments and measuring 6.5 meters in diameter, will be assembled.

· The telescope is expected to arrive at its final destination, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, about 29 days after launch.

Space agencies from the United States (NASA), Europe (ESA) and Canada (CSA) have teamed up to develop this telescope. Europe played an important role in this mission, with ESA ensuring the launch on board Ariane 5, as well as the Nirspec spectrometer built by Airbus. The astrophysics department of the CEA (French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission) in Saclay and the Paris Observatory have designed the MIRI camera. It is the most ambitious telescope ever to be sent to space.

“Today’s launch is the mission of the decade,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, “a mission that demonstrates the reliability of Arianespace’s launch services in the eyes of the international space community. It is a great honor for us to have been chosen for this launch which will allow humanity to take a giant leap in its knowledge of the Universe. The mission took 20 years of preparation hand in hand with NASA. This is our third launch for the US Space Agency, clearly illustrating the value of large-scale international collaboration in space. I thank ESA, NASA and CSA for entrusting us with their precious payload. Launch on Christmas morning 42 years after the takeoff of the first Ariane from this same Kourou site… What a great end-of-year gift for the space community gathered today for this launch.

I would also like to thank the teams of Arianespace, ArianeGroup, Cnes and ESA who worked tirelessly to ensure this success, all driven by the same passion.

Designed as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the Webb Space Telescope will be 100 times more powerful. It will integrate improved and different technologies to capture 70% more light. Thanks to these innovations, astronomers will be able to make unprecedented observations that show that the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang.

“This latest success is without a doubt one of Ariane 5’s most iconic space exploration launches, after the Comet Rosetta mission and the European ATV supply ships for the International Space Station,” said André- Hubert Roussel, CEO of ArianeGroup. “Ariane 5 is known as the most reliable launcher in the world, but, like all those who contributed to the success of this mission, we held our breath as our launcher took off with this scientific gem, protected by a special fairing adapted to its sophisticated instruments. All previous launches prepared this one as well, because we knew the eyes of the world would be on us. There are only five Ariane 5 launches planned before this legendary launcher takes his leave. Everyone at ArianeGroup is fully committed to making Ariane 6, whose first launch since Kourou in 2022, is the next great European achievement in space. I would like to thank ESA, NASA and CSA for placing their trust in us, as well as all our Ariane 5 partners in Europe, who are surely as proud as I am today.

Engineers from ArianeGroup, Arianespace and their European industrial partners have developed specific solutions for this mission in order to ensure perfect compatibility between Ariane 5 and its passenger.

· A special adapter for the satellite was designed and produced with respect for the space available under the fairing: the telescope measures 10.5 meters high and nearly 4.5 meters wide under the fairing, compared to 21 x 14 meters once deployed.

· The fairing has undergone a special cleaning to ensure that no dust could come in contact with the telescope and its essential mirrors.

· Pistons were placed near the purge vents in the fairing to force them open and reduce as much as possible any pressure differential between the inside of the fairing where the telescope is located and the space vacuum;

· To protect the fragile components of the telescope from any unwanted thermal effects, the flight software has been configured so that Ariane 5 performs a specific roll maneuver to control its exposure to the sun once the fairing has been released.

· Following the separation of the telescope from the upper stage of the launcher, in order to avoid any risk of possible collision between the two, a specific maneuver was carried out to move the stage away after the end of its propulsion phase using of its propellants and gas residues.

· Drawing on the accumulated experience of more than 100 Ariane 5 missions, Arianespace provided exceptionally precise orbital injection towards the second Lagrange point.

ArianeGroup is prime contractor for Ariane 5 and Ariane 6, in charge of development and production, at the head of a vast industrial network of more than 600 companies, including 350 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). ArianeGroup coordinates all industrial activities concerning Ariane 5, from initial design studies and performance upgrades, to the production and supply of the data or software required for each mission. Its responsibilities include various components, sub-assemblies and structures, the production of propulsion systems, the integration of stages and then the integration of the launcher itself at the Guyanese Space Center. ArianeGroup delivers a launcher in flight condition on the launch pad to its subsidiary Arianespace, which supervises flight operations for its customers, starting with take-off.

Ariane 5 is a program of the European Space Agency (ESA), carried out in collaboration between industry and public institutions. Marketed and operated by Arianespace, Ariane 5 launches are carried out at the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in Kourou, French Guiana, with the support of the French space agency CNES (National Center for Space Studies).

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