the period of 1962-1973 the European Launcher Development Organisation has
worked to develop a rocket called Europa partly based on the British Blue
Streak missile. The Europa project newer succeeded in launching a
satellite and in 1973 the project was cancelled.
1974 the European Space Agency ESA was formed by merging ELDO with the
European Space Research Organisation space organisation ESRO. One of the
ESA first major projects was the development of the LS3-launcher. (LS3
simply means Europa 3 substitute). It was later renamed to Ariane.
1974 and 1975 France and Germany had built two communication satellites
Symphonie A and B, which were launched by US delta rockets.
But the Americans in reality had a monopoly in launching commercial
communication satellites and they demanded, that the Symphonie Satellites
only served experimental purposes.
experience was one of the reasons, that especially France invested lot of
resources in development of an independent European commercial launcher.
The Ariane was developed under the leadership of the French space agency
CNES in corporation with West Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden,
Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. .
On December 24, 1979 the first Ariane was launched from Kourou in French Guiana. It successfully set the test satellite CAT-1 (capsule Ariane Technologique) into orbit. For the next 7 years ariane 1 served as a satellite and the last Ariane 1 launched the Giotto probe to its rendezvous with Halley’s comet.
More information about Ariane:
(This is only a little selection of the many sources for the model.)
www.capcomespace.net (In french - but simply the best)
Tim Furniss: History of space vehicles
Brian Harvey: Europe's Space Programme: To Ariane and Beyond
Video of the first launch: