At Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, ESA’s new Ariane 6 launch vehicle, consisting of its upper and core stage has been fuelled up and its core stage engine fired. With the rocket standing on its launch pad, the Vulcain 2.1 engine was ignited, fired for four seconds as planned and switched off before its liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuels were drained to their separate underground tanks. These tests are the continuation of an earlier test on 18 July.
The exercise, conducted by CNES and ArianeGroup under the lead of ESA, checked pre-launch procedures and ignition, and showed again, that the system can be kept safe in the event of a launch abort, as already demonstrated during the 18 July test. Fuelling and ignition was the latest in an ongoing series of tests to validate that the rocket, launch pad, protective gantry and all related fluid and electrical connections work properly as a combined system.
The Ariane 6 rocket now installed on the launch pad is not intended for flight – the solid rocket boosters are inert – but it is almost identical to a flight model for purposes of testing. Flight models, including the rocket that will make Ariane 6’s inaugural flight, are being manufactured and assembled under the responsibility of ArianeGroup, the prime contractor in Les Mureaux, France and Bremen, Germany. The solid rocket boosters for the first flight are being aseembled in Kourou, French Guiana.
ESA Director of Space Transportation Toni Tolker-Nielsen remarked: “We have a fantastic team working on this programme. We can all feel it – we are taking the final steps towards entering into the Ariane 6 era.”
Ariane 6 is an all-new design, created to succeed Ariane 5 as Europe’s heavy-lift launch system. With Ariane 6’s upper stage and its reignitable Vinci engine, Europe’s launch capability will be tailored to the needs of multiple payloads, for example to orbit satellite constellations. This autonomous capability to reach Earth orbit and deep space supports Europe’s navigation, Earth observation, scientific and security programmes. Ongoing development of Europe’s space transportation capabilities is made possible by the sustained dedication of thousands of talented people working in ESA’s 22 Member States.
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