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Ariane 5 and Thales’s inertial measurement unit launch for the 100th time!

Sep 26. 2018  The success of the milestone 100th launch of the Ariane 5 rocket on September 25th from the Guiana Space Centre represents an opportunity to focus on one of the Thales technologies present on board, the inertial measurement unit (IMU).

Thales has been part of the European Space Agency’s launchers since the start of the Ariane 5 programme in 1987. Amongst other technologies, Thales supplies the inertial navigation unit, which enables satellites to be positioned in orbit to a degree of precision that is currently unparalleled. The levels of precision and reliability delivered by the Thales inertial unit have greatly contributed to the commercial success of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle.

Cutting-edge technology

Thales’s TopAxyz inertial units are based on gyrolaser technology (Ring Laser Gyro, RLG).

Positioned in the upper level of the launcher, the performance levels of the inertial units have proved highly consistent over 22 years of operations. The compact equipment incorporates a solid laser gyrometer and three accelerometers that form an optimized system to ensure the precision of the launch vehicle’s performance.

“RLG technology has proved to be greatly reliable over the years. It also demonstrates Thales’s ability to deliver high-performance products,” comments Thales sales executive Mickaël Brouillet.

IMU applied to other fields

“The experience gained on board the Ariane 5 has enabled us to further develop the technology and apply it to various other environments and situations,” Mickaël Brouillet adds.

As well as its use on board the range of European launch vehicles, the TopAxyz IMU is present on commercial and military aircraft, including the Mirage 2000 and KC-390. On the Airbus A350 XWB, the units have clocked up more than 3 million flight hours since the aircraft entered into service.

TopAxyz is a true concentrate of high-tech expertise with capabilities that are also suitable for land applications, as shown by its recent selection for the Jaguar combat and reconnaissance armoured vehicle. The inertial measurement unit can also be applied to naval platforms; it is present on board autonomous underwater vehicles including Thales’s AUSS (Autonomous Underwater & Surface System).

Photo: ©2018 ESA-CNES-ARIANESPACE / Optique Vidéo du CSG - JM GUILLON

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