Site map

Site update log

About this site

About the author



Searching for details:

The author of this page will greatly appreciate comments, eyewitness accounts, documents and imagery related to the subject. Please contact Anatoly Zak.



The Diamant rocket launched the first French satellite on November 26, 1965, making France the third country after the USSR and USA with an access to the Earth orbit.


In 1960, President Charles de Gaulle proclaimed French goals to reach space. Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, CNES, was formed on March 1, 1962, with the task of planning and executing the French space program. The agency reported to the Minister Delegate in Charge of Scientific Research, Atomic and Space Affairs and was ultimately supervised by the Prime Minister. (174)

Along with military-run Ministerial Delegation for Armaments, DMA, CNES funded development of a series of rockets named after precious stones and culminating with the Diamant, (Diamond) -- the first French space launcher.

The agreement between CNES and DMA on the development of the rocket was signed on May 9, 1962. CNES and DMA contracted the technical task of developing the Diamant launcher to the newly created industrial conglomerate known as SEREB (Societe d'Etude et de Realisation des Engins Balistiques).

On November 26, 1965, the Diamant rocket orbited the first French satellite, the A-1, following a successful launch from Hammaguir test site in Algeria. In addition to bringing French nation into the Space Age, the "precious stones" series paved the way to the creation of operational silo-based and submarine-based ballistic missiles. (223, 224)

Technical description

Diamant rockets lacked guidance system, however first and second stages were equipped flight control gear. The third stage was spin-stabilized and small thrusters consuming pressurized nitrogen would be used to maintain its attitude parallel to the Earth horizon during the flight.

Known specifications of the Diamant family of launchers (174):

Diamant A
Diamant B
Diamant BP4
Launch mass
17.826 - 18.4 tons
24.948 tons
26.4 tons
Vehicle length
18.9 meters 23.5 meters 21.6 meters
Vehicle diameter
1.4 meters (2.7 with stabilizers) 1.4 meters (2.7 with stabilizers) 1.5 meters
79.4 - 85.3 kilograms 115.2 - 160 kilograms 150-200 kilograms (300 kilometer orbit)
Payload fairing mass
- - 0.135 tons
Payload fairing length
- - 3.47 meters
Payload fairing diameter
- - 1.38 meters
Payload fairing volume
- - 1.5 cubic meters
L 17
Stage I mass
14.7 tons
20 tons
Stage I length
10 meters
14.2 meters
Stage I diameter
1.4 meters
1.4 meters
Propulsion system (Vexen)
Propulsion system thrust
30 tons (274 kH)
28.962 tons
35-40 tons
Propulsion system burn time
93-95 seconds
Oxidizer (nitrogen tetroxide) mass
12.8 (total propellant)
12.134 tons
17 tons (total propellant)
Fuel (UDMH) mass
5.897 tons
R-4 (Rita I)
Stage II mass
2.9 tons
4.78 tons
Stage II propellant mass
2.23 tons
4 tons
Stage II length
4.7 meters
2.28 meters
Stage II diameter
0.8 meters
1.5 meters
Propulsion system
Solid-propellant motor with four movable nozzles
Solid-propellant motor
Rita I solid-propellant motor
Propulsion system thrust
15 tons (150 kH)
205 kH
Propulsion system burn time
44 seconds
44 seconds (?)
62 seconds
Europa perigee motor
Europa perigee motor (R-0,68)
Stage III mass
0.71 tons
0.78 tons
Stage III propellant mass
0.64 tons
0.7 tons
0.68 tons
Stage III length
2.06 meters
1.67 meters
Stage III diameter
0.65 meters
0.8 meters
Propulsion system
Solid-propellant motor
Solid-propellant motor
Solid-propellant motor
Propulsion system thrust
3.7 - 5.3 tons (52 kH)
51 kH
Propulsion system burn time
43 - 45 seconds
46 seconds




The Diamant A launcher. Click to enlarge: 400 x 300 pixels / 32K Copyright: © 2005 Anatoly Zak

The launch of the Diamant A rocket from Hammaguir, Algeria. Credit: Aerospatiale

Aerial view of the Diamant launch complex in Hammaguir, Algeria. Credit: CNES

The D-1A Diapason satellite is shown during pre-launch tests in Hammaguir, Algeria. It became the third French satellite after its successful launch by the Diamant A rocket on February 17, 1966. Credit: CNES

The Diamant rocket on the launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana. Credit: CNES

Scaled model of the launch complex for the Diamant rocket in Kourou. Click to enlarge: 400 by 300 pixels / 32K Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak