Europe will launch its next big rocket in 2023

with another delay, it is unclear when exactly the European Space Agency will blast off its Ariane 6 heavy-lift rocket, the intended successor to the current Ariane 5 rocket that successfully launched the James Webb Space Telescope in December 2021.

Designed as a less expensive and more flexible heavy-lift vehicle than Ariane 5, development of Ariane 6 began in 2014. Like its predecessor, the new rocket will launch both scientific and commercial payloads from the European Spaceport in Kourou, Guyana. French. , in South America, albeit from a new launch pad.

If all goes well, Ariane 6 rockets will begin flying ESA missions, such as the HERA spacecraft, in 2024, while competing with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rockets to launch commercial payloads from of 2023.

The timing of the Ariane 6 launch is particularly critical for ESA because the Ukraine conflict has prevented the agency from accessing Russian rockets. Along with SpaceX launchers, the new vehicle could fill the Soyuz void.

What is the status of Ariane 6 now?

Ariane 6’s first launch was initially scheduled for July 2020. After several delays, the rocket is now set to blast off in the “last quarter of 2023,” according to a recent press briefing.

The Ariane 6 rocket under construction will provide a powerful launch vehicle for ESA. THIS

What is the design of the Ariane 6 rocket?

Ariane 6 will be a heavy, two-stage rocket that will rise nearly 200 feet from the launch pad.

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A Vulcain 2.1 engine, an upgraded version of the engine that powers the Ariane 5, will power the lower stage, while the new Vinci engine will power the upper stage. Both engines use liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer.

The lower stage also accepts two or four solid rocket boosters to provide additional launch at liftoff, the two booster configuration known as the A62 variant and the four booster configuration, the A64 variant of the rocket.

ESA illustration of the two Ariane 6 launch configuration variants. THIS

In total, Ariane 6 will provide more than 1 million pounds of lift at liftoff and can deliver between 11 and nearly 24 tons to low-Earth orbit, depending on the variant used.

What will the Ariane 6 be capable of?

Between the two variants, the different sized rocket fairings, and the flexibility of the Vinci engine (many rocket engines can only be restarted on the ground), Ariane 6 will be able to deliver payloads everywhere from low Earth orbit to geosynchronous orbit. .

It will also serve well on escape missions from Earth, just as its predecessor, Ariane 5, did when it launched the Webb telescope to Lagrangian Point 2, 1 million miles from Earth in deep space.

The James Webb Space Telescope launches aboard an Ariane 5 rocket on December 25, 2021. JODY AMIET/AFP/Getty Images

What missions could Ariane 6 launch?

With Ariane 6’s first flight still uncertain, it’s unclear which payloads the new rocket will launch first and when.

ESA plans to launch a Galileo navigation satellite sometime in 2023 using Ariane 6 and its HERA spacecraft, which will examine the results of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), sometime in 2024.

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