Watch first launch of Europe’s next-gen rocket in ESA animat…

The Ariane 5 rocket completed its last mission in June, leaving Europe without a heavy-lift vehicle to carry spacecraft to orbit.

Its operator, Arianespace, is working on the rocket’s successor, Ariane 6, and revealed last week that it would not make its first test flight until June 15, 2024.

On Sunday, the France-based aerospace company shared an animation (below) showing what a typical launch would look like, including the various stages of flight as the vehicle enters orbit.

Ariane 6 launch animation

Arianespace is building two versions of the Ariane 6. The Ariane 62 will fly with two strap-on boosters while the more powerful Ariane 64 will fly with four.

“More than 60 meters tall, Ariane 6 will weigh approximately 900 tonnes when launched with full payload – the equivalent of approximately one and a half Airbus A380 passenger aircraft,” Arianespace said in comments accompanying the video.

The rocket’s upper stage engine, called Vinci, is powered by liquid hydrogen and oxygen and can be stopped and restarted multiple times, making it ideal for missions that involve placing multiple satellites into different orbits. Requires installation.

This will be particularly useful in so-called “rideshare” missions that would allow multiple companies to join a single flight, providing customers a more cost-effective way to deploy small satellites in space.

Following satellite deployment, the Ariane 6 upper stage will be dismantled and burned up in Earth’s atmosphere, ensuring that it will not become hazardous space junk that could otherwise endanger operational satellites in near-Earth orbit.

The development of Ariane 6 is a massive project, involving several hundred companies from 13 European countries, led by prime contractor ArianeGroup.

France’s space agency, CNES, is currently working on Ariane 6 launch facilities at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, the same site from which Ariane 5 lifted off in its final launch five months ago.

In development since 2014, the first flight of the Ariane 6 was scheduled to take place in 2020, but several delays pushed the date to next year.

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