Inquiry board named to probe Ariane 5 launch failure

Posted: July 16, 2001

  Ariane 5
The Ariane 510 rocket on the launch pad before Thursday's unsuccessful flight. Photo: Arianespace
The outside investigative panel charged with determining why the Ariane 5 rocket malfunctioned last week and how to fix the problem has been appointed by Arianespace, the European Space Agency and the French space agency CNES.

The seven-member independent Inquiry Board is led by Roger Vignelles, with Massimo Trella, a professor, Andre Van Gaver of ESA, Wolfgang Koschel of Germany's DLR, Pascal Pempie of CNES/DLA, Hugues Laporte of EADS and Alain Souchier of Snecma.

The board is supposed to report its initial conclusions on August 1, Arianespace says.

The launch mishap is being blamed on the rocket's upper stage, which failed to deliver its full thrust and ultimately shut down 80 seconds early. That resulted in the rocket's two satellite cargos -- ESA's Artemis communications technology demonstration spacecraft and a Japanese TV broadcasting craft -- to be deployed into a significantly lower than planned orbit.

Further details about the failure aren't expected until after the board submits its findings next month.

"In line with the usual procedures under these circumstances, and to maintain the independence of the Inquiry Board, Arianespace, its partners and the manufacturers concerned, will not release any information concerning this event prior to the submission of the Board's official report," Arianespace said in a statement Monday.

Thursday's mishap was the third time in 10 flights that an Ariane 5 rocket has failed to place its cargo into the proper orbit.