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19 November 2016

Ariane 5 sets records with TopAxyz inertial technology

The 17 November launch of the Ariane 5 rocket was the 75th straight success for Ariane 5, breaking the tie with its predecessor, Ariane 4, and retaining Thales's record for the unbeatable performance of its inertial technology.

Since 1988, a total of 87 Ariane rockets have lifted off with Thales inertial measurement units on board for trajectory guidance. The performance of the inertial system makes a key contribution to orbit positioning accuracy and is therefore critical to mission success. As well as Ariane, the Vega launch vehicle has also relied on Thales's inertial technology since its very first flight in 2012.

28 years of success

Over the last 28 years, Thales's inertial systems have set some unbeatable records — 100% on-time delivery and 100% reliability at lift-off. Orbit positioning precision has also been exceptional (a few metres to a few hundred metres at perigee and apogee), helping to ensure mission effectiveness because a satellite that is correctly placed on its intended orbit injection point means that fuel consumption and lifetime on orbit will be exactly as planned.

Resisting extreme levels of vibration

"These outstanding results were achieved despite the extreme conditions of shock and vibration experienced by space launch vehicles, which can affect the integrity and performance of onboard equipment," explains Michel Mary, an inertial navigation expert at Thales. "Sensors, circuit boards, interconnections and mechanical components all have to be specially designed to withstand significant vibration for prolonged periods of time. We need to make sure they do not break, obviously, and that mechanical resonance does not make the vibration even more difficult to cope with. Vibrations also lead to unintended movements of sensors, which can disrupt operation or lead to incorrect readings that need to be corrected."

"A system operating in such a tough mechanical environment therefore needs to meet a number of conditions. The sensor technology used must be intrinsically less sensitive to vibration, as is the case with TopAxyz technology, a special hardware design is needed, and measures must be taken to compensate for errors induced by unintended movements. The ability to meet all of these conditions is a key differentiator for Thales in this field,"
says Michel Mary.

Photo:
The TopAxyz system from Thales is a 3-axis monolithic ring laser gyro. The compact inertial measurement unit is designed to provide high-performance trajectory guidance in very severe environments.

Find more information about TopAxyz here.

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