Ariane 4 was an expendable launch system, designed by the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales and manufactured and marketed by its subsidiary Arianespace. Ariane 4 was justly known as the ‘workhorse’ of the Ariane family. Since its first flight on 15 June 1988 until the last, on 15 February 2003, it made 113 successful launches. It was known to be an extremely versatile launcher.
The Ariane 4 proved ideal for launching communications and Earth observation satellites as well as those for scientific research. During its working life, Ariane 4 captured 50% of the market in launching commercial satellites, demonstrating Europe's ability to compete in the commercial launch sector.
In 1973 eleven countries, called together by the European Space Agency (ESA), decided to take Europe down its own path in the space field: and so the Ariane programme was born. Six years later in 1979, Ariane 1 was launched from Kourou. Following development work on variants 1, 2 and 3, Ariane 4 was able to draw on the experience gained from these earlier variants.
The development program began in 1983 and the first successful launch was on 15 June 1988. The system became the basis for a European satellite launching program with a stellar record of 113 successful missions and only three launch failures. Ariane 4 provided a payload increase from 1700 kg for Ariane 3 to a maximum of 4800 kg to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). The record for Ariane 4 to GTO was 4946 kg.
The Ariane 4 Launch Team was awarded the Space Achievement Award by the Space Foundation in 2004.
The Ariane 4 was the ultimate development from the Ariane 1,2,3. Compared with the Ariane 2/3, the Ariane 4 featured stretched first (61%) and third stages, a strengthened structure, new propulsion bay layouts, new avionics, and the SPELDA (Structure Porteuse Externe de Lancement Double Ariane) dual-payload carrier. The basic 40 version used no strap-on motors, while the Ariane 42L, 44L, 42P, 44P, and 44LP versions used various combinations of solid and liquid propellant strap-on motors. Development was authorised in January 1982, with the objective of increasing payload by 90%. Total development cost 476 million 1986 ECU's.
Originally designed to place 2-4.2 tonne payloads in geostationary orbit, the six Ariane 4 variants, aided by strap-on boosters, enabled the launch of payloads in excess of 4.9 tonnes on several occasions.
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