Status Report

The results of the inquiry into the failure of Ariane flight 157 are released

By SpaceRef Editor
January 7, 2003
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The inquiry board appointed to investigate the failure of the Ariane 5 ECA flight on December 11 2002 has submitted its report to Arianespace. The board was established to determine the causes of the anomaly that resulted in the explosion of the spacecraft.

The board has established the most probable cause for the failure of the mission, examined the potential consequences for the Ariane 5 launcher and recommended actions to correct these problems. All recommendations have been accepted by Arianespace, which should enable the Ariane 5 ECA to return to service during the second half of 2003.

After a complete analysis of the data the board confirmed that all preparatory and countdown operations were as normal until the separation of the solid boosters. The loss of integrity was caused by a leak in the nozzle of the Vulcain 2’s cooling circuit during the first flight phase; this was then followed by the critical overheating of the nozzle. This caused a serious imbalance, which in turn led to the loss of control over the launcher’s trajectory.

The board concluded that the most probable cause for the flight failure was the simultaneous occurrence of the following factors

  • * The degraded thermal condition of the nozzle due to fissures in the cooling tubes, and
  • * Non-exhaustive definition of the loads to which the Vulcain 2 engine is subjected during flight

As a result of these specific factors Arianespace have decided to create a Review Board to decide the future launch date of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. This board will meet on Tuesday 14 January 2003.

SpaceRef staff editor.