Adapted from The Satellite Encyclopedia.

Diamant launchers

The first series of Diamant launchers were directly derived from the Saphir rockets. In December 1961 it was decided to build the Diamant launcher by replacing the payload of Saphir by a third stage. In May 1962 CNES selected DMA to manage the Diamant program, SEREB being the prime contractor. The Rubis rocket was designed to test the third stage in-flight, on top of an Agate stage.

Diamant A Diamant A

Diamant A

The Diamant A first stage was a 10 m high, 1.4 m diameter Emeraude rocket, weighing 14.7 tons. Its LRBA Vexin engine with steerable-nozzle burned during 93 seconds and delivered 269 kN thrust at sea level (304 kN in vacuum). The second stage was Topaze: 4.7 m high, 80 cm in diameter, weighing 2.9 tons. It provided a mean thrust of 156 kN during 44 seconds. The P064 third stage was 2 m high and 65 cm diameter. It weighed 709 kg including 640 kg Isolane (thus its name). It burned for 45 seconds providing 27 to 53 kN thrust. With its fairing Diamant was 18.95 m high and weighed 18.4 tons.

Diamant achieved orbiting at first try on 26 November 1965. The payload was a simple technological capsule christened Astérix. After this launch the three remaining rockets were used to orbit geodetic satellites (D1 program) between February 1966 and February 1967. All launches were carried out from the CIEES (Centre InterArmées d'Essais d'Engins Spéciaux, inter-army special vehicles test center) in Sahara which was closed in July 1967.

Diamant B Diamant B

Diamant B

After Diamant numerous projects appear but CNES decides to built a launcher directly derived from Diamant A. The main evolution was the lengthened first stage which used more powerful propellants. This first stage called Améthyste was 14.2 m high, 1.4 m diameter, and 20.1 t weight. Its Valois motor delivered 316 kN thrust at sea level (400 kN in vacuum) during 116 seconds. The second stage was identical the Diamant A's one; The top stage (P068) was also enhanced: 1.67 m high, 80 cm diameter and 50 kN thrust during 46s. With its fairing (85 cm diameter instead of 65 cm for Diamant A) Diamant B was 23.5 m high and weighed 24.6 tons.

Six Diamant B were ordered: 2 for CNES and 4 for ELDO (in single stage version) which were to be used to test the PAS (Perigee-Apogee System) for Europa 2. Finally ELDO dropped the idea and the 5 rocket built were used by CNES.

After the launch of the German Wika technological capsule Diamant B launched Peole (technology) and Tournesol (astronomy).
The last two launches were failures. All launches occurred from the CSG (Centre Spatial Guyanais, Guiana space center).

Diamant BP4

Development of Diamant BP4 started in January 1972. It was based on the first and third stage of its ancestor. The new second stage P4 (Rita) was from the ballistic missile MSBS guided by jet deviation (freon injection). It was 2.28 m long and 1.5 m diameter; it provided a mean 180 kN thrust during 55 seconds. With the 1.38 m fairing from the Black Arrow program Diamant BP4 was 21.6 m high and weighed 27 tons.

After 1975 France stopped its sounding rocket and national launcher programs to devote entirely to the European Ariane launcher.

a/ Diamant launchers evolution
b/ Diamant launches

a/ Diamant launchers evolution
Scale in meters

DesignationFirst launch1st stage2nd stage3rd stage300 km500 km1000 km
A1965EmeraudeTopazeP064 80 

b/ Diamant launches

#Launch idPayloadLaunch DateSiteTypeStatus/Comment
165096Asterix26 Nov 1965HMGA 
266013Diapason17 Feb 1966HMGA 
367011Diadème 108 Feb 1967HMGAPartial failure: orbit too low
467014Diadème 215 Feb 1967HMGA 
570017A: Wika
B: Mika
10 Mar 1970KRUB 
670109Péole12 Dec 1970KRUB 
771030Tournesol15 Apr 1971KRUB 
8n/aD2 Polaire5 Dec 1971KRUBFailure: 2nd stage failed
9n/aCastor Pollux22 May 1972KRUBFailure: fairing non jettisoned
1075010Starlette6 Feb 1975KRUBP4 
1175039A: Pollux
B: Castor
17 May 1975KRUBP4 
1275092Aura27 Sep 1975KRUBP4 
Notes: Launch site: HMG for Hammaguir, Sahara; KRU for Kourou, Guiana

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Please contact Jean-Jacques Serra <> for comments, corrections or questions