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Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket passes key test

The European Space Agency hopes to launch its new-generation Ariane 6 rocket “as soon as possible” as Europe faces a gap in its access to space.

January 24, 2023
By Tim Hepher
24 January 2023

Europe has carried out successful hot-firing tests of the Ariane 6 launcher and aims to launch its new-generation rocket “as soon as possible” while maintaining a broad end-year target, the European Space Agency says.

Friday’s tests, carried out in near-vacuum conditions at a facility in Germany, ran for up to 975 seconds and came as a “huge relief” after an earlier test was interrupted, ESA director of space transportation Daniel Neuenschwander said.

The hot-firing tests are one of three main hurdles before launch, alongside combined tests with the launcher in French Guiana and delivery of hardware.

The rocket is being developed by ArianeGroup, co-owned by Airbus and Safran.

ESA will not be able to give a more exact timetable for the debut until June, Neuenschwander said.

The current Ariane 5 version has two remaining launches in the first half.

The delayed launch of Ariane 6 is a crucial step as Europe faces a gap in its access to space after the use of Russian Soyuz rockets was interrupted by the war in Ukraine and Italy’s Vega C was grounded following a launch failure last month.

“Let’s call it what it is – a crisis with launchers in Europe,” ESA director general Josef Aschbacher told reporters.

A commission of inquiry into the Vega C failure is expected to issue its findings in the second half of February, he said.

Neuenschwander said the Vega C problem had been focused on the new second stage, adding this meant the earlier Vega version could resume flights before the affected Vega C model.

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