At long last: Europe's new Ariane 6 rocket set to debut on July 9

Europe’s new Ariane 6 heavy-lift rocket is set to launch for the first time on July 9 after a series of delays.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Ariane 6 rocket, developed by ArianeGroup, will lift off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. The date of the rocket‘s long-awaited inaugural flight was announced at the ILA Berlin air show on June 5; however, a specific launch time or window has not yet been released.

Ariane 6 marks a new era of autonomous, versatile European space travel,” Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s director general, said in a statement from the space agency. “This powerful rocket is the culmination of many years of dedication and ingenuity from thousands across Europe and, as it launches, it will re-establish Europe’s independent access to space.”

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Ariane 6 is Europe’s next-generation heavy-lift launch vehicle, consisting of a main and upper stage and two or four solid rocket boosters. Its reignitable upper stage will allow it to launch multiple missions on different orbits on a single flight, ESA officials said in the statement.

The new rocket will replace the venerable Ariane 5, which was retired last July after 27 years of service and more than 100 successful launches. Europe’s original plan was to have the Ariane 6 up and running by 2020, allowing for a smooth transition between the two launch vehicles. However, Ariane 6 suffered a series of delays caused by technical issues, COVID-19 and design changes.

“I would like to thank the teams on the ground for their tireless hard work, teamwork and dedication in this last stretch of the inaugural launch campaign,” Aschbacher said in the statement. “Ariane 6 is Europe’s rocket for the needs of today, adaptable to our future ambitions.”

With a scheduled launch date officially on the books, ESA and its partners are completing the final steps for liftoff, including a fueling test and practice countdown known as a wet dress rehearsal, which is slated for June 18.

a white rocket stands inside an assembly buildinga white rocket stands inside an assembly building

a white rocket stands inside an assembly building


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“This flight will mark the culmination of years of development and testing by the teams at ArianeGroup and its partners across Europe,” Martin Sion, CEO of ArianeGroup, said in the statement. “It will pave the way for commercial operations and a significant ramp-up over the next two years. Ariane 6 is a powerful, versatile and scalable launcher that will ensure Europe’s autonomous access to space.”

While the inaugural Ariane 6 launch is primarily a demonstration flight, it will carry various payloads, which have already been integrated on the rocket’s payload carrier. If successful, Ariane 6 could launch on a second flight by the end of the year, with the goal to eventually complete about 10 launches each year.

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