TechFirst flight of Ariane 6. The rocket set to give Europe independence

First flight of Ariane 6. The rocket set to give Europe independence

Ariane 6 Rocket
Ariane 6 Rocket
Images source: © ESA | David Ducros

8:03 AM EST, December 2, 2023

Ariane 6 is Europe's new carrier rocket. Designed with superior power and versatility, it aims to give Europe space independence while reinforcing its competitive edge in reaching near-Earth orbits.

Set to replace its predecessor, Ariane 5, Ariane 6 is expected to make its debut soon. Josef Aschbacher, the Director General of the European Space Agency, indicated that the first flight of the new Ariane 6 rocket is scheduled for the summer of 2024. It seeks to succeed Ariane 5 whose last flight occurred in July 2023.

The Ariane 6 rocket, towering at 197 feet, will be available in two versions - Ariane 62 with two boosters and Ariane 64 with four. The smaller variant can hoist payloads exceeding 22,000 lbs to low Earth orbit and 9920 lbs to geostationary orbit. Meanwhile, the four-engine version can lift a whopping 45,400 lbs to low orbit and 25,350 lbs to geostationary orbit.

The distinguishing trait of the Ariane 6 rocket is its impressive versatility. Capable of carrying both heavy, large payloads and smaller, lighter ones, it's an all-rounder. As noted by PAP, the European Space Agency has listed example payloads such as Earth observation satellites, telecommunication satellites, meteorological satellites, scientific research equipment, and navigation support gear.

Plans are in place to use special adapters that will enable the securing of small satellites, weighing up to 441 lbs, to the main payload. This innovation is projected to significantly cut the cost of launching satellites into orbit.

The Ariane 6 rocket comprises three stages - two or four solid fuel boosters and a lower and upper stage with liquid hydrogen engines. This configuration will facilitate multiple orbit reach within a single flight and permits the positioning of diverse payloads.

Like the Ariane 5, Ariane 6 will launch from the European Spaceport in French Guiana. The decision to build the rocket was made by ESA in 2014, reflecting their commitment to maintaining Europe's leading stance in space travel.

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