The European Space Agency carried out a rare test-firing yesterday of its Ariane 5 solid-fuel booster at its French Guiana spaceport. The 135-second test on a specially-designed vertical testing stand was part of the Ariane 5 Research and Technology Accompaniment (ARTA) programme, designed to validate modifications for the next production batch of boosters to be flown. The test simulates the firing time during an Ariane 5 flight and delivered a mean thrust of 700t - the video includes a thrust-to-time chart.
One of the goals was to prove new, thinner thermal protection on the inside of the motor's casing. The reduced pressure oscillations will lower the stress on the vehicle and its valuable passengers.
The nozzle tested a new composite material that is more resistant to combustion, and the motor also used an improved igniter.
These changes improve the vehicle's performance, modify elements that are now obsolete and reduce manufacturing costs.
This was the fifth test of Ariane 5's booster as part of ARTA - the next is expected in about three years.