Ariane 5 and what we can learn from “her”

Picture from Pixabay

Details are everything. Every successful company is good in its field because they know what they are doing, and by doing so, they offer the best quality product available in the market. There are many different aspects that play an important role in the success of a company. We have on one side, of course, the knowledge of the company about their product. On the other side, we have the culture of the company, the marketing, the motivation of the co-workers, the organization of the company, and their innovation.

There are plenty of examples of companies who were great once, but because of the lack of one of these aspects, they failed to stay in the market (Nokia, Blockbuster, Polaroid, Compaq, General Motors, Kodak, etc.). And here I am mentioning only these companies which made it first big. Most of them failed in innovation.

There are for sure thousands of other companies or start-ups that will be never be known worldwide because they lost their way in the middle. And at the moment are a lot of companies fighting right now for power in this fearful market. For example, the management of Apple has to demonstrate the next years if they are capable of bringing the company to the next level. Steve Jobs was the force of innovation in Apple, and since his absence, the company is living now with new versions of their old products.

But where or what is the key to success? The CEOs of the big companies today know it for sure. They know it right now. But the world is changing, and in 5 years the “key to success” will probably change. Like in evolution, at the end the most important part is the adaptation to a new environment. The world is now complex in every aspect (economy, politics,  marketplace, products, theories, philosophy, etc.). Inclusive the history of our world is changing constantly.


We are still discovering new aspects of the history of ancient cultures, who know actually more than we suspected. I am sure more discoverings are coming in this field. Since our world is made from each of this aspects, our world is changing faster than ever before. And each day a new aspect is being created that could change the image of our world. There is no answer to the question: “What is the key to success?”, since the answer can be found only at the right moment and in the right place. The most probable is that the person or company which knows its environment the most will have the best success.

One example of success or failure is the launch of the spacecraft Ariane 5. For sure is the rocket science one of the most challenging fields and technologies of humanity. The amount of knowledge, money, time, organization and work needed to bring a project to success is huge. Ariane 5 had his maiden flight on 4 June 1996, and only 40 seconds after initiation of the flight, Ariane 5 exploded. Engineers of different countries with a great expertise investigated the case. The result was astonishing. There was a data conversion error from 64-bit floating point to 16 bit signed integer value. Of course, the engineers knew that such a conversion is fatal, but they could not see this error during the system validation. Before using an equipment, there are different steps to follow. Each of these steps is necessary to ensure the functionality of a system, software or hardware or a combination. The complexity of systems in rocket science is that they are normally unique (and it was for Ariane 5) and that the software and hardware are dependable of the other. By converting a 64-bit floating number to a 16-bit integer value, information of the number was lost. With it, a chain reaction started. The On-Board Computer transmitted the integer value, a nozzle deflection was commanded, high aerodynamic loads were caused, which in turn caused the separation of the booster from the main stage.

The Ariane 5 was valued at $500 million. It took more than a decade of development costing $7 billion. The full report of the crash can be seen here:

Here there is some python code showing the difference between floating with decimals and integer numbers (no decimals). The conversion of a floating number to an integer number means lost of information what leads to a wrong calculation if this converted number is used.

# python code

# this is a float number
number = 3.141592

# converting
number_2 = int(number)

# the result is 3

The engineers learned from this error and could include more tests to their system validation. We have here an example of a failure. They had to optimize their process, investing more money and time, but this should not stop a project, a person or company from innovation. It is the only way to reach success in this world.


We have the example of Nokia, who totally ignored the phone with touch tool technology. Now they are investing a huge amount of money to catch up on the market of smartphones. This is a necessary risk if they want to survive in this marketplace. And also they are innovating in other fields. See


“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Steve Jobs



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