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End signalled for European Ariane 5 rocket

From BBC - January 9, 2018

A final order for a batch of 10 Ariane 5 rockets has been raised.

The vehicle, which has been the mainstay of European launcher activity for the past 20 years, will be phased out once its successor is in place.

ArianeGroup, the French-led industrial consortium, expects its new Ariane 6 to be flying no later than mid-2020, and in full operational service in 2023.

At that point, Ariane 5 can be retired. The last order ensures sufficient rockets are available for the handover.

ArianeGroup CEO Alain Charmeau commented: "This production kick-off of 10 new Ariane 5 ECA represents, for the European industry, a total of more than 1 billion euros.

"This also allows us to continue capitalising on the exceptional levels of quality and punctuality that have made Ariane 5 so successful, while being consistent with the rapid market introduction of Ariane 6."

After a couple of early-career failures, the Ariane 5 has become a super-reliable vehicle.

Its most recent outing in December was the 82nd straight successful flight.

However, the vehicle is now considered too expensive for the way the launcher market is developing. And this need for change is emphasised by the rising prominence of the American SpaceX company which is able to recover and re-fly rockets, gaining further price advantage on top of the more modern production methods it uses.

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