Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket makes its inaugural flight

The powerful Ariane 6 rocket on its debut mission
The powerful Ariane 6 rocket on its debut mission. (Image credit: ESA/M. Pédoussaut)

Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket made its inaugural flight from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana at 19:00 UTC (3 p.m. EDT) on July 9, 2024.

The heavy-lift launcher Ariane 6 is the successor to the extremely successful Ariane 5 rocket. The European Space Agency (ESA) announced the retirement of Ariane 5 in July 2023, after nearly three decades of service.

So for the last one year, Europe could not launch any big mission through their own rocket.

This launch ensures Europe’s independent access to space.

The European private aerospace company ArianeGroup has developed the powerful Ariane 6 rocket under the guidance of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Payloads and variants of Ariane 6

Over 60 meters tall, the Ariane 6 rocket weighs almost 900 tons when launched with a full payload.

The components of the Ariane 6 rocket, with its two variants
The components of the Ariane 6 rocket, with its two variants. (Image credit: ESA – D. Ducros)

The Ariane 6 rocket is available in two variants:

— Ariane 62 (the main Ariane 6 rocket with two boosters), which is capable of launching approximately 4500 kg payloads into geostationary transfer orbit or 10,300 kg payloads into low Earth orbit.

— Ariane 64 (the main Ariane 6 rocket with four boosters), which is capable of launching approximately 11,500 kg payloads into geostationary transfer orbit and 20,600 kg payloads into low Earth orbit.

The European Space Agency (ESA) used the Ariane 62 variant in its inaugural launch.

Stages and engines of Ariane 6

The main Ariane 6 rocket has two stages:

— the lower stage, or core stage, which is powered by a liquid oxygen-hydrogen Vulcain engine. This lower stage, together with the solid rocket boosters, can deliver 135 tons of thrust in vacuum.

— the upper stage, which is powered by a liquid oxygen-hydrogen Vinci engine. This Vinci engine of the upper stage is reignitable, which allows Ariane 6 to launch multiple missions on different orbits on a single flight. The Vinci engine will burn multiple times to reach the required orbits.

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Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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