Europe's Ariane 6 rocket will take off in summer 2024
The European Space Agency (ESA) has finally unveiled the slot for the maiden flight of the Ariane 6 rocket, scheduled between June 15 and July 31, 2024. Initially scheduled for 2020, the launch of Europe's new heavy launcher has suffered numerous delays.
An Ariane Group employee stands in front of the Vulcain 2.1 engine of an Ariane 6 rocket, before French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to Vernon, France, Jan. 12, 2021. REUTERS - POOL
By: RFI Follow
The green light has finally been given. The maiden flight of the Ariane 6 rocket is expected to take place between 15 June and 31 July 2024, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Thursday 30 November. "This is a good day for Europe's space industry," ESA Director Josef Aschbacher told a news conference. Initially scheduled for 2020, the first flight of Ariane 6, designed to compete with the American Space X launcher, has been postponed several times due to the Covid-19 pandemic and development difficulties.
🚀 #Ariane6 first launch is now targeted between mid June and end of July 2024!
With the latest test complete, Ariane 6 has been through the essential rehearsals required for qualification. We have validated our models, increased our knowledge of operations and are now confident... pic.twitter.com/1Ak7qJSSDu
— Josef Aschbacher (@AschbacherJosef) November 30, 2023
The decision follows the "complete success", according to Josef Aschbacher, of a critical test carried out on 23 November in Kourou, French Guiana. This test consisted of a firing of the Vulcain 2.1 engine, which will power the launcher's main stage.
Europe deprived of independent access to space
This news represents a way out of the crisis for Europe, which has been forced to turn to SpaceX to launch its satellites since the retirement of Ariane 5 last July and pending a return to flight of the Vega-C light launcher, not before 2024. "We are on the right track to guarantee European access to space again," said the ESA Director.
Read alsoEuropeans divided over the fate of the Ariane rocket
Between now and the summer, the European Space Agency has set a date for two important milestones. On 7 December, with a test of the Vinci re-ignitable engine of the upper stage, in Germany, then on 15 December, with a filling test of all stages followed by a brief engine ignition, in Kourou. These two tests aim to "verify that the reliability and robustness of the (launcher) design is in line with expectations" in so-called "degraded" conditions, explained Martin Sion, Chairman and Executive of ArianeGroup.
The final launch date, which should be announced in March or April 2024, will still depend on a general review of the launcher's qualification as well as the "real industrial challenge of moving from the construction of two to nine launchers per year", added Martin Sion.
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