Europe successfully launches new Ariane 6 space rocket from French Guiana

The new Ariane 6 heavy rocket, which restores Europe’s effective access to space, has been successfully launched for the first time from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

Ariane 6 is Europe’s new heavy-lift launch vehicle, replacing its successful predecessor, Ariane 5, which has flown 117 times between 1996 and 2023. The new rocket is distinguished by a restartable upper stage that allows it to launch multiple missions to different orbits in a single flight.

The new rocket at 19:00 UTC on July 9.

“It is not often that a completely new rocket is launched, and success is far from guaranteed. I am privileged to have witnessed this historic moment when the next generation of the Ariane family successfully lifted off, effectively restoring European access to space,” ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said in a statement.

This maiden flight, designated VA262, was a demonstration flight intended to show Ariane 6’s capabilities and ability to escape Earth’s gravity and operate in space. However, there was payload on board.

One hour after lift-off, the first set of satellites on board Ariane 6 was released from the upper stage and placed into an orbit 600 km above the Earth. Satellites and experiments from several space agencies, companies, research institutes, universities and young professionals were included in this maiden flight.

In addition to the rocket, the lift-off demonstrated the operation of the launch pad and ground operations at Europe’s Spaceport. The new dedicated launch site, custom-built by French space agency CNES, allows for a faster turnaround of Ariane launches.

By placing its satellites in orbit, Ariane 6 has proven it can successfully launch its payloads into space, but ground control has more in store for its maiden flight.

Problem with the auxiliary engine

The flight was also scheduled to see Ariane 6’s upper stage demonstrate that it can restart its Vinci engine using the novel auxiliary propulsion unit, although ESA’s official broadcast reported a problem with it. This restart capability will allow Ariane 6 to drop multiple payloads into different orbits on future flights and to deorbit through Earth’s atmosphere at the end of its mission, to ensure it does not become space debris.

The next Ariane 6 is scheduled to launch this year on its first commercial flight under the stewardship of Arianespace as operator and launch service provider.

By Editor

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