The European Space Agency is planning on returning to space with the first launch of their Ariane 6 spacecraft, which they’ll be target launching in October, and ideally officially launching in 2024.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is planning to set a target launch period for their Ariane 6 spacecraft in October. The goal of this period is to ideally prepare the agency and spacecraft for an official space mission in the first half of 2024.
At a recent briefing, ESA officials and partners working on the Ariane 6 steed that they will ideally be making an announcement with a more specific range of dates for the spacecraft’s initial launch “after a pair of static-fire tests on the rocket’s core stage and its Vulcain 2.1 engine on the launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana,” according to reports from Jeff Foust with Space News.
The first of those tests is scheduled for September 5th, which will be followed by a 470-second test on October 3rd. If these tests are successful, the ESA will classify the Ariane 6 as “flight ready,” according to the ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.
“We will then be in a position to define a launch period Ariane 6, which we will announce to you after these series of tests have been conducted.”
“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,” said Aschbacher.
An initial four-second static-fire test was scheduled for July but was postponed for technical issues, and another test rescheduled for August 29th was postponed after a control bench technical issue.
The director of space transportation at the French space agency CNES, Carine Leveau, said “there was no clear technical issue that postponed the test. We needed more time to be sure that everything was well-prepared, in particular concerning the control bench. Today, everything is OK and clearly explained, so we are going to perform the chronology tomorrow.”
There was a successful static-fire test for Ariane 6, which confirmed the upper stage performance of the spacecraft. “If that had been a flight, this phase of the flight would have been successful,” said Martin Sion, chief executive of ArianeGroup, prime contractor for the Ariane 6.
“A final static-fire test of the upper stage is planned for this fall, again at Lampoldshausen, to test the performance of the stage in degraded conditions and other mission profiles. I don’t think there will be any difficulty in taking this test in due time.”
“The successful upper stage test was proof of the versatility of the Ariane 6, including the ability to restart the upper stage. What has been demonstrated is very convincing for what we will have to do for our customers,” said Stéphane Israël, chief executive of Arianespace.
“The cost of Ariane 6 development remains at approximately 4 billion euros ($4.3 billion). At the moment the cost is contained. That cost estimate includes a 20% margin for contingencies that has not yet been exceeded,” said Toni Tolker-Nielsen, ESA’s director of space transportation.
“The delays in Ariane 6 have created very significant costs borne by ArianeGroup, but did not elaborate,” Sion said.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.