Overcoming Ariane’s quirks and foibles
The Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department is providing help in overcoming the friction and lubrication problems which sometimes arise in Ariane, the European space rocket. The department’s speciality consists of testing mechanical equipment at very low temperatures.
At a time when 50 years of Sputnik are being celebrated, the complexity of the technological systems deployed in placing a satellite around the Earth has a tendency to slip out of people’s minds. Ariane, the European satellite launcher, has not been spared some technological difficulties which have sometimes led to flight setbacks, although happily these have been few in number. Of the 176 flights in which ESA (European Space Agency) and Arianespace have been involved in since December 1979, Ariane has stumbled on nine occasions. Eight lapses were due to mechanical problems within the booster rocket and one to computing error.