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Virtual Earth map of Ariane 5 rocket, Le Bourget

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Ariane 5 is an European expendable launch system designed to deliver satellites into geostationary transfer orbit and to send payloads to low earth orbit.

It is manufactured under the authority of the European Space Agency (ESA) with EADS SPACE Transportation as prime contractor, leading a consortium of sub-contractors. The rocket is operated and marketed by Arianespace as part of the Ariane programme. EADS SPACE Transportation builds the rockets in Europe and Arianespace launches them from a space port at Kourou in French Guiana.

It succeeded Ariane 4, but does not derive from it directly. Its development took 10 years and cost Ä7 billion. The ESA originally designed Ariane 5 to launch the manned mini shuttle Hermes, and thus intended it to be "human rated" from the beginning. After the ESA cancelled Hermes, the rocket became a purely commercial launcher.

Two satellites can be mounted using a Sylda carrier. Three main satellites are possible depending on size. Up to eight secondary payloads, usually small experiment packages or minisatellites, can be carried with an ASAP (Ariane Structure for Auxiliary Payloads) platform.


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