The name Ariane refers to a series of a civilian European expendable launch vehicles for space launch use. The name comes from the French spelling of the mythological character Ariadne.
France first proposed the Ariane project in the 1970s. The European Space Agency has oversight of the development of all Ariane launchers and of the testing facilities; while Arianespace, a commercial entity, handles production, operations and marketing.
The several versions of the launcher include:
- Ariane 1, first successful launch on December 24, 1979
- Ariane 2, first successful launch on November 20, 1987 (the first launch on May 30, 1986 failed)
- Ariane 3, first successful launch on August 4, 1984
- Ariane 4, first successful launch on June 15, 1988
- Ariane 5, first successful launch on October 30, 1997 (the first launch on June 4, 1996 failed).