Advanced Television

Ariane 6 delayed to mid-2024

September 5, 2023

By Chris Forrester

The already much-delayed debut launch of Ariane 6 rocket is to be further delayed. A briefing by the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that maiden flight is not now likely until the middle of 2024. The delays are likely to push the rocket’s first commercial launch towards the end of 2024. The original schedule called for the maiden flight for Ariane 6 in 2020.

Today [September 5th] a test burn of the giant Vulcain engine is again scheduled to take place having suffered incomplete tests in July and August.

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher told the briefing that this test and further test-firings of the rocket’s engine should then allow the agency to set a target for the first launch. He advised: “We will then be in a position to define a launch period for Ariane 6, which we will announce to you after these series of tests have been conducted.”

The panel of experts at the briefing added that there would likely be a 6-month delay following the debut test flight before a commercial launch could take place.

Aschbacher added: “We are on a good track. We have stabilized the schedule. The tests are looking really good. I think the chances, if everything goes perfect, are pretty good that it’s not too late in the next year, but there are still a lot of unknowns ahead of us.”

But the delays are a huge embarrassment for ESA and its construction partners. The further delays also mean higher costs for the production teams. An initial €4 billion budget ($4.3 billion) is still “contained” said Toni Tolker-Nielsen, ESA’s director of space transportation, and has not yet been exceeded, but ArianeGroup admitted that there have been “very significant costs” to be incurred.

The delay could also impact orders for the rocket, and these include a major 18-launch order from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos for carrying his Project Kuiper broadband satellites into orbit.

ArianeGroup Chief Executive Martin Sion said during the briefing that there were 15 Ariane 6 vehicles already in production.

Sion told the briefing that Arianespace had 28 firm orders for the rocket and that its contractors could produce 9-10 vehicles per year.

Categories: Articles, Satellite

Tags: , ,