Europe regains access to space with successful inaugural Ariane 6 launch

European Space Agency

ArianeGroup’s new heavy-lift rocket, Ariane 6, successfully made its inaugural flight from the Guiana Space Centre (CSG), also known as Europe’s Spaceport, in French Guiana at 16:00 local time.  

Ariane 6, the latest in the Ariane rocket series, boasts a modular and versatile design capable of launching missions to low-Earth orbit and deep space. The launcher features a re-ignitable upper stage, allowing different satellites to be launched into several orbits during a single flight. 

The inaugural flight, designated VA262, demonstrated the capabilities of Ariane 6. Despite being a test, the rocket carried several satellites and experiments from various space agencies, companies, research institutes, and universities. At 21:06 BST, an hour after liftoff, the first set of satellites was successfully deployed into an orbit 600 km above Earth. 

Ariane 6’s successful debut sets the stage for its future commercial operations. The next flight models are already in production and scheduled for launch in 2024, with 14 other flights planned over the following two years. In April 2022, Amazon ordered 18 launches from ArianeGroup, the prime contractor and design authority of Ariane 6, to deploy a constellation of internet satellites as part of its Project Kuiper. 

A strategic launch under scrutiny 

The launch marks a significant milestone for the European Space Agency (ESA) and its partners after four years of delays in the program. ESA had been without access to space for a year following the retirement of Ariane 5 in July 2023. It also faced a significant setback following the unsuccessful launch of Vega-C in 2022. 

“I am privileged to have witnessed this historic moment when Europe’s new generation of the Ariane family lifted off – successfully – effectively reinstating European access to space,” Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director General, said. 

With such a sensitive launch, security during the launch was ensured by the French Armed Forces in Guyana (FAG) as part of Operation Titan.  

The forces maintained the safety of the space base during the launch by utilizing a GM-400 air defense radar, two Fennec helicopters, and Mistral ground-to-air missiles.  

Three Rafale fighter jets from the 4th Fighter Wing were deployed to Air Base 367 in Cayenne on July 1, 2024, to enforce airspace protection.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

AeroTime is on YouTube

Subscribe to the AeroTime Hub channel for exclusive video content.

Subscribe to AeroTime Hub