Continuing work to tackle a challenge seen on two earlier Ariane 5 releases has kept that release vehicle grounded for months. Also, can postpone the high-profile release of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope later on this year.
The Ariane 5, one of the planet’s most dependable release vehicles, last initiated in August 2020, assigning two communications satellites. This is along with Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle 2 into geostationary transmission orbit. The lengthy interruption in releases led to speculation there was a problem with the rocket.
In an announcement, Arianespace acknowledged that “post-flight examinations done on two recent Ariane 5 releases have suggested the existence of a less than the completely nominal split of the fairing. However, with no unfavorable effect on the Ariane 5 flights in doubt.”
The firm did not give specifics on the challenge, but industry sources acquainted with the problem say the following:
- On both the August 2020 release and the earlier Ariane launch in February 2020, the split of the faring caused sensations into the payload pile well above normal limits.
- Neither incident hurt any of the payloads, but created troubles about the impact on potential operations, involving JWST.
“We have chosen to perform a set of extra checks with RUAG and ArianeGroup. This is to confirm the best level of superiority and dependability. The growth of these inquiries remains optimistic,” says Arianespace. Ruag, which makes the Ariane 5 payload fairings, did not react to a call for a statement about the level of that work.
Arianespace refuses to give a plan for future Ariane 5 releases, stating the only date it was announced was for its next operation. A Soyuz vehicle bearing an additional set of OneWeb satellites slated for release on May 27. However, NASA executives say there are two Ariane 5 releases arranged prior to the JWST release. Which the organization had been publishing an Oct. 31 date for.
The first of those two Ariane 5 assignments are arranged to carry the Eutelsat Quantum and Star One D2 satellites for operators Eutelsat and Embratel Star One, respectively. In its most recent profits statement on May 11, Eutelsat says the release of Eutelsat Quantum has slid. This is from the late 2nd quarter of this year to the 3rd quarter. However, did not extend a more precise release date.
The surplus in that plan has been slowly declining, as anticipated. “When we ship, the plan surplus will be fairly close to zero, but still on schedule,” Robinson says. Saying there are no “liens” on the plan for the continuing work prior to delivery. “Right now, we are in a really great place.”
“We are moving fairly close to the objective line,” he adds. “We just want to punch it over.”