Ariane’s First Launch: A Failure Broadcast Live on TV

Ariane’s First Launch: A Failure Broadcast Live on TV
Ariane’s First Launch: A Failure Broadcast Live on TV


The inaugural flight of the European Space Agency (ESA) Ariane 6 rocket took place on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 at 8 p.m. Scheduled for 2020, it is four years behind schedule. If all goes well, Ariane should keep Europe’s access to space in the face of competition from SpaceX. More agile, the rocket will make it possible to put satellite constellations into orbit like its competitor.

The stakes are high, explains theAFPbecause for a year now, Ariane 5 rockets have stopped taking off. And with the war in Ukraine, Europeans no longer have access to Russian Soyuz launchers. However, these rockets are used to put geostationary satellites into orbit. Which is something Europe can no longer do at the moment.

This first flight carried 18 micro-satellites; we will have to wait for the first commercial flight planned for the end of 2024 to take a larger satellite into orbit.

Due to the lack of a launcher, in February 2024, ESA had to call on SpaceX to operate a geolocation system, Galileo. Expectations for Ariane 6 are high, as the order book is already full and several dozen missions are pre-ordered.

This new launch is an opportunity to look back on the first launch of the Ariane rocket in 1979. It was also crucial, because it was supposed to ensure Europe’s independence in space. But the first test gave the engineers cold sweats.

While the launch of July 9, 2024 was followed live on the ESA channel, in 1979, viewers watched it, also live on television. These are the images that we invite you to watch again.


The archive available at the top of the article is the report broadcast on TF1 on December 15, 1979. It was a real technical feat. The event was commented on from the National Center for Space Studies in Evry by Michel Chevalet and, on site, in Cayenne (French Guiana), by Michel Anfrol.

A minute before Ariane’s launch from its launch pad, everything seemed normal. Michel Chevalet, from the press room, commented on the stages of the takeoff. Everything is perfectly OK ” he said. Eight seconds before the launch, the tension was palpable. I’ll let you watch the pictures. Arms dropped, ignition “… Then nothing!

Incredulous, Michel Chevalet continued his commentary, as a good professional: “ The rocket should rise, lift itself under the thrust of its enginesbefore concluding, There is an incident, indeed! “In the absence of information, the science journalist launched into a whole series of hypotheses explaining the probable origin of the failure.

For his part, Michel Anfrol, in Cayenne, had obtained more information which he delivered feverishly: ” I witnessed here live the departure which did not take place”he said before explaining that a red light had come on, signaling the detection of an anomaly in the launcher and that it was apparently the unlocking of the first stage that had not taken place.

Introducing Ariane to Young Viewers

To see what Ariane looked like before its first launch, we suggest you watch this report from June 1978 broadcast in the FR3 magazine “Hebdo Jeunes”. Produced at the European Space Agency, it allowed you to discover the manufacturing phases and the assembly of the tanks and to become familiar with the process of integrating the different elements of the rocket.

Here, two engineers explain these different manufacturing phases as simply as possible. The opportunity to discover unpublished images of the interior of the Ariane rocket.



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