ESA’s Ariane 6 rocket underwent successful testing in French Guiana, showcasing readiness for pre-launch procedures and system safety. Designed to succeed Ariane 5, Ariane 6 is Europe’s next-generation heavy-lift launch system, backed by experts from ESA’s 22 Member States.
At Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, the European Space Agency’s new Ariane 6 launch vehicle, consisting of its upper and core stage, has been fueled up and its core stage engine fired. With the rocket standing on its launch pad, the Vulcain 2.1 engine was ignited, fired for four seconds as planned, and switched off before its liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuels were drained to their separate underground tanks. These tests are the continuation of an earlier test on July 18.
On September 5, 2023, teams from France’s space agency CNES and ArianeGroup under the lead of ESA carried out a complete Ariane 6 launch sequence on its launch pad at Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana. The test ended with a hot fire of the launcher’s core stage and the startup of the Vulcain 2.1 engine. Credit: ESA/ArianeGroup/CNES
System Safety and Coordination
The exercise, conducted by CNES and ArianeGroup under the lead of ESA, checked pre-launch procedures and ignition, and showed again, that the system can be kept safe in the event of a launch abort, as already demonstrated during the July 18 test. Fuelling and ignition was the latest in an ongoing series of tests to validate that the rocket, launch pad, protective gantry, and all related fluid and electrical connections work properly as a combined system.
Specifications and Preparations for Inaugural Flight
Interestingly, the Ariane 6 rocket now installed on the launch pad is not intended for flight – the solid rocket boosters are inert – but it is almost identical to a flight model for purposes of testing. Flight models, including the rocket that will make Ariane 6’s inaugural flight, are being manufactured and assembled under the responsibility of ArianeGroup, the prime contractor in Les Mureaux, France and Bremen, Germany. The solid rocket boosters for the first flight are being assembled in Kourou, French Guiana.
Entering the Ariane 6 Era
ESA Director of Space Transportation Toni Tolker-Nielsen remarked: “We have a fantastic team working on this program. We can all feel it — we are taking the final steps towards entering into the Ariane 6 era.”
Features and Future of Ariane 6
Ariane 6 is an entirely new design, created to succeed Ariane 5 as Europe’s heavy-lift launch system. With Ariane 6’s upper stage and its reignitable Vinci engine, Europe’s launch capability will be tailored to the needs of multiple payloads, for example, to orbit satellite constellations. This autonomous capability to reach Earth orbit and deep space supports Europe’s navigation, Earth observation, scientific, and security programs. The ongoing development of Europe’s space transportation capabilities is made possible by the sustained dedication of thousands of talented people working in ESA’s 22 Member States.