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Ariane 6 ready to launch

July 8, 2024

By Chris Forrester

The European Space Agency (ESA) has confirmed that its pre-launch Readiness Review of the Ariane 6 rocket had been wholly satisfactory, and that ESA had given the green light for a July 9th launch.

Currently, and subject to the usual weather considerations, the launch window from Europe’s spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana is scheduled for 20.00 Central Europe time . Fuelling of the rocket and its boosters will start the night before launch.

Director of space transport at the National Center for Space Studies (CNES), Carine Leveau, said it is a relief that the flight is happening after numerous postponements. It was initially planned to happen in 2020. She explained that Ariane’s order book – despite a recent cancellation of a weather satellite’s launch – is full.

“We have large-scale institutional missions waiting to be deployed in orbit. French sovereign missions, satellites of the Galileo constellation. And commercial customers of Arianespace, including the [Kuiper] constellation developed by Amazon, which has signed eighteen launch contracts,” said Leveau.

Arianespace’s Ariane 6 rocket will carry a dummy payload weighing 1,600kg and a desiccated ESA payload carrier which can host experiments totalling 80kg and can release payloads with an aggregated mass of 800kg. The payload carrier will include several small satellites including CuriumOne, OOV-Cube and SpaceCase SC-X01.

The rocket is much needed for Europe’s scientific and governmental missions, some of which have been forced to select SpaceX because of Ariane’s late availability. The July 9th launch is a test flight only. The first commercial flight is scheduled for this coming winter, although no date has yet been specified.

The Ariane 6 rocket’s design does not allow for any recovery, so when comparing it to SpaceX it is – by any measure – yesterday’s technology despite the enthusiastic support of its European manufacturers.

Arianespace is working on a part-reusable rocket, likely to be available by 2027.

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