Does anyone know why ESA did not use Ariane 1 through 4 to launch probes beyond Earth orbit?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Pipcard, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. Pipcard I love Hatsune Miku

    Oct 26, 2010
    Before the end of the Cold War, exploration of the Moon and the rest of the solar system was dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union, as you can see on this list. Europe's launch vehicles at the time (Ariane 1 through 4) were mostly used for commercial launches to geostationary orbit. Why weren't any lunar or interplanetary probes developed for it?
  2. Orcbuster Well-Known Member

    Mar 6, 2017
    Because Geostationary orbit is what Arianespace makes rockets for and its what it was meant to compete (and in recent years completely dominate) in due to its launch location near equator which saves a lot of delta-v for geostationary orbits. They were never meant to launch interplanetary missions but designed for commercial ventures.
  3. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

    Nov 27, 2008
    Halfway to Anywhere
    Reason number one is just that in general ESA didn't have a lot of probe money to go around in the '80s and early '90s. Thus, they didn't launch a lot of missions in the period that weren't some kind of joint collaboration. The joint missions tended to be ambitious, and thus massive--too heavy for Ariane. Given that the partners usually included the US, with a large stable of medium-heavy lifters, there was no reason to reign this in--better to launch a more ambitious mission than to try to cut it down to launch on an Ariane and only have a fraction of the scientific value of rmuch of the same cost (plus political capital expended in convincing the US to go along with that).

    Second, Ariane 1/2/3 didn't really achieve the kind of reliability Ariane has since been known for until...something like the mid to late 1980s. The first 18 launches saw 4 failures. That's a bit riskier than probe missions generally like. Hence, more tech-development-heavy missions like EXOSAT tended to prefer a reliable launch on a more proven US mission--trading cost and political flag waving for reliable launch. By the late 1980s, that reasoning had mostly stopped, and you see more European solo (and even ESA-lead) joint missions using Ariane 4. It's still not a massive number until the 2000s, when ESA probes really started to take off in number. By my count, there were more ESA solo missions between 2000 and 2005 as there were from ESA's foundation to 2000:
    Pre-2000: EXOSAT, Giotto, Hipparcos, Infrared Space Observatory, XMM-Newton
    2001-2005: PROBA-1, Smart 1, Mars Express, Rosetta, Venus Express
    TheKutKu and Pipcard like this.
  4. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    one little correction

    ESA has launch a interplanetary probe with Ariane 1 : Giotto probe to Halley comet.

    ESA had made several proposals for Space probe in beginn 1980s
    Giotto comet Halley fly-by, „Disco“ for Sun studies in Far Ultraviolet and „Kepler“ a Mars geophysical orbiter, All three would based on Spin-Stabilized Geos satellite to reduce cost.
    Two others proposals were a Asteroids fly by mission and lunar orbiter build on 3-axis stabilized Space probe.

    but the council of europeans science ministers only gave money for Giotto probe and surviving NASA-ESA join-ventures like Ulysses
    next to that was ESA focusing on low earth orbit for earth observation and Astronomy what reduce the budget for interplanetary probes in 1980s and 1990s
    BigRIJoe likes this.
  5. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

    Nov 27, 2008
    Halfway to Anywhere
    True--I hadn't forgotten about it, just forgot to emphasize that out of those 5 independent missions prior to 2000, they did launch a few on their own LVs. To review them:

    EXOSAT: Launched on American Delta 3914
    Giotto: Launched on Ariane 1
    Hipparos: Launched on Ariane 44LP
    ISO: Launched on Ariane 4P
    XMM-Newton: Launched on Ariane 5

    Basically, by the 1990s, all their independent probes were launching on Ariane LVs, it's just that came too late for the Ariane 2/3 to get a share.