Ariane 5 is a European heavy-lift space launch vehicle developed and operated by Arianespace for the European Space Agency (ESA). It is launched from the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) in French Guiana.
It has been used to deliver payloads into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) or low Earth orbit (LEO). The launch vehicle had a streak of 82 consecutive successful launches between 9 April 2003 and 12 December 2017. Since 2014, Ariane 6, a direct successor system, is in development.
The system was designed as an expendable launch system by the Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES), the French government’s space agency, in cooperation with various European partners.
Despite not being a direct derivative of its predecessor launch vehicle program, it is classified as part of the Ariane rocket family.
ArianeGroup is the prime contractor for the manufacturing of the vehicles, leading a multi-country consortium of other European contractors.
Ariane 5 was originally intended to launch the Hermes spacecraft, and thus it is rated for human space launches.
Since its first launch, Ariane 5 has been refined in successive versions: “G”, “G+”, “GS”, “ECA”, and most recently, “ES”.
The system has a commonly used dual-launch capability, where up to two large geostationary belt communication satellites can be mounted using a SYLDA (Système de Lancement Double Ariane, meaning “Ariane Double-Launch System”) carrier system.
Up to three, somewhat smaller, main satellites are possible depending on size using a SPELTRA (Structure Porteuse Externe Lancement Triple Ariane, which translates to “Ariane Triple-Launch External Carrier Structure”).