The European Space Agency was established in 1973 as a collaborative effort between 11 nations to develop space and rocket technology. Its main aim was to be a commercial route for launching satellites and it was designed to be able to take multiple satellites on the same launch. The first Ariane launch took place in December 1979; there was a rush to launch before the end of the decade, perhaps in comparison with Kennedy’s goal for landing a man on the moon by the end of the 60s. General pre-launch shenanigans meant that it took a few attempts, but the first Ariane took to the skies on Christmas Eve. The European Space Agency has launched 5 generations of Ariane rockets, with a sixth now in development.
The name Ariane is the French equivalent of Ariadne, translated as Very Holy. In Greek mythology, Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos. She fell in love with Theseus and helped him to escape the Labyrinth and the Minotaur, but was later abandoned by him.