Ariane 6: Everything you need to know about the takeoff scheduled for this evening

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Launched in Kourou in French Guiana from 3 p.m. (local time, 8 p.m. here), Ariane 6 will finally have its space baptism10 years after the start of its development. The now competitive landscape of space conquest, largely invested by SpaceX, has had major consequences on various projects benefiting from a great reputation like Ariane. As a reminder, Ariane 5 was one of the most reliable rockets in history with 97% successful launches, but faced with now tougher competition, the launcher quickly proved obsolete. Hence the need to create a credible succession: this is where Ariane 6 comes into play.

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Ariane 6 is designed to carry out many types of space missions, and will be available in two different versions depending on the power required for each flight. Thus, Ariane 62 has two boosters (to carry a load of up to 5 tons), while Ariane 64 will draw its power from 4 of them (for a load of up to 11.5 tons). For this first flight scheduled for this evening, Ariane 62 and its two boosters will have the honor of launching this new era of European space conquest. This takeoff will also be an opportunity to discover the rocket's restartable upper stage (up to 4 times) and its auxiliary propulsion unit.

A second Ariane 6 model already planned in case of failure

If this test were to be successful, Ariane 6 could be used for various missions to launch loads of all kinds, such as satellites into orbit. Note, however, that Ariane 6 still lacks one thing to reach the level of SpaceX rockets: its upper stage can certainly be deorbited once the mission is over, but it will be destroyed when it falls back to Earth, unlike SpaceX, which offers reusable rockets. Nevertheless, if the Ariane 6 takes off successfully, the bill for European launches should be reduced by 40% according to various estimates.

What will happen if this first launch of Ariane 6 were to be a failure? As a reminder, one in two launches (47%) of a new rocket model ends in failure. This was also the case with Ariane 5 in 1996, which exploded in mid-flight, only 30 seconds after takeoff. Despite this traumatic setback, Ariane 5 has nevertheless become one of the figureheads of the conquest of space. So, will it be the same for its little sister? Toni Tolker-Nielsen, director of space transportation at the European Space Agency (ESA), tells our colleagues point : “If the first flight of Ariane 6 goes badly, we will investigate and organize a second qualification flight. This can happen very quickly because we already have a second flight model, but it will depend on the corrective actions needed.“.

To follow this take-off, go to ESA web TV from tonight at 8 p.m. The exact time of the flight has not yet been specified, but it should take place between 8 p.m. and midnight.

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