The Ariane launch vehicle was designed originally as both a commercial satellite and manned spacecraft launch vehicle. The Ariane's 39,000 lb payload capability was sized by the mass of the HERMES Space Plane. Once the HERMES was canceled, the Ariane 5 was converted to a strictly commercial launcher.
The Ariane 5 is built around a central cryogenic (liquid oxygen / hydrogen) core powered by a single Vulcain engine. Two large Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB's) provide a large percentage of the initial thrust. A small storable propellant second stage is used for final velocity and insertion maneuvers.
The Ariane 5's initial design specifications left it oddly positioned to meet current market requirements. In the single launch mode, the US $120 million launch price and large 15,000 lb capability is not currently in demand. However, the dual launch payload capability of 13,160 lb, or two satellites at 6,600 lb each, is too small for the current market. As a result, Arianespace is already planning a series of performance improvements to boost the Ariane 5's capability. The first performance improvement, titled Perfo 2000, will increase the capability of the Aestus second stage to boost GTO performance to 7,000 kg (15,428 lb). The second planned improvement is to use the current Ariane 4 third stage (LOX / LH2) engine to create a high performance Ariane 5 second stage. Such an improvement would increase GTO payload performance to 12,000 kg (26,450 lb) and allow the Ariane 5 to carry two 'heavy' satellites. Funding for both improvements was approved in early 1999.
High fidelity Ariane 5 rocket model, high poly, with materials and textures.