Spaceflight Insider

Update: Arianespace investigates cause of Ariane 5 launch abort

The Ariane 5 rocket remains on the launch pad seconds after a rare post-engine ignition abort. Photo Credit: Arianespace

An Ariane 5 rocket remains on the launch pad seconds after a rare post-engine ignition abort. Photo Credit: Arianespace

Arianespace recently released a preliminary analysis of the post-ignition launch abort of an Ariane 5 rocket carrying two communications satellites. The mission, designated flight VA239, was scheduled for liftoff at 5:51 p.m. EDT (21:51 GMT) Sept. 5, 2017, from the Guiana Space Centre in South America.

Moments after the ignition of the Ariane 5’s liquid-fuel main engine, the onboard computer detected an anomaly effecting electrical equipment on one of the rocket’s two side-mounted solid rocket boosters. This resulted in a shutdown of the automated launch sequence before the boosters – which cannot be turned off once on – were ignited.

“This interruption is perfectly compliant with our procedures which authorize a launch only if 100 percent of launcher equipment is fully operational,” Arianespace said in a press release. “This rule guarantees the reliability and robustness of our launch system.”

Data analysis began immediately after the countdown interruption. Teams will continue to diagnose the cause of the anomaly and determine what steps are needed to return to launch operations as soon as possible.

Following the abort, the Ariane 5 rocket and the two satellites it carried, Intelsat 37e and BSAT-4e, were put in a safe configuration. The rocket’s fuel tanks were purged and the whole stack transported back to the Final Assembly Building (BAF) on Thursday, Sept. 7. The satellites will remain under the fairing of the rocket as it is returned to a flight-ready condition.

Arianespace said a new launch date will be announced as soon as the analysis of the anomaly is complete. The objective is to fly around the end of September. The company said that the postponement is not expected to affect the other flights scheduled before the end of the year.



Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

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