The successful Ariane 5 ECA launch on 29 August 2013 carrying Eutelsat 25B/Es’hail 1 commercial communications satellite and the Indian Navy’s Gsat -7 communications satellite marked the 57th continuous Ariane 5 launch success in its current successful run.
Commercial satellite operators and their insurers are actually much more impressed by a good recent reliability record for commercial launch vehicles rather than one from the past. Thus, while the very reliable Soyuz (which Arianespace also now operates) still holds the outright record of continuous launch successes at 100 flights flown in the 1980s (see table below), in fact, with its current run of 57 good flights, the Ariane 5 can be said to be the “Reliability King” of commercially offered launch vehicles.
Of the other contenders Russian/Ukrainian rockets (e.g. Proton, Zenit etc) have shown weaknesses with quality control which has prevented them reaching the ”Nirvana” state of near perfect reliabilty that most Western launch vehicles eventually achieve after a few initial flight failures. As a result of this trend difference, the Russian government and its Roscosmos space agency are now taking active steps to improve Russian rocket reliability.
Comment by David Todd: The Flightglobal/Ascend space analyst team actually identified this Western-Russia/Ukrainian launch vehicle trend difference about ten years ago which we then, somewhat undiplomatically, presented to an audience of stony-faced Russian launch and space industry executive at the Malakut-organised “Space Club” conference in Moscow two years later. Unsurprisingly, we were not invited to present at the Space Club conference again, but it is nice to see that the truth did eventually sink in.
|Launch Vehicle||Longest continuous run of successful launches||Dates of longest continuous run||Current run of successful launches|
|Ariane 5 (All Variants)||57||09/04/2003 to present||57 since 09/04/2003|
|Atlas V (All Variants)||29||11/10/2007 to present||29 since 11/10/2007|
|Delta IV (All Variants)||20||24/05/2006 to present||20 since 24/05/2006|
|Falcon 9 (All variants)||3||04/06/2010 to 22/05/2012||1 since 01/03/2013|
|Long March 3B (All variants)||12||04/09/2010 to present||12 since 04/09/2010|
|Proton (All Variants)||43||02/03/1983 to 18/11/1986||0 since failure on 02/07/2013.|
|Soyuz (All variants)||100||14/10/1983 to 19/03/1986||26 since 28/12/2011|
|Zenit (All variants)||19||29/06/2007 to 03/12/2012||1 since 31/08/2013|
Note: The Falcon 9 series is a relatively new launch vehicle at the start of its career with only five launches to date. Long March rockets are commercially offered by US ITAR technology restrictions severely limits which spacecraft can fly on these vehicles. The Japanese H2A/H2B series has been omitted yet to fly commercially though it is offered. Similarly the Delta II launch vehicle has been omitted it is no longer used for commercial missions.