LE HAVRE (dpa-AFX) – The main and upper stages of the first flight model of the European launch vehicle Ariane 6 are on their way to the European spaceport. The sailing freighter “Canopée” left the port of Le Havre in France with the steps on board, rocket manufacturer ArianeGroup announced on Monday. “The delivery of the stages for this first Ariane 6 is an important step on the way to the first flight and subsequent commercial use of the new European heavy-lift rocket,” ArianeGroup quoted its boss Martin Sion as saying. The first flight is expected between June 15th and July 31st.
The Ariane 6 is the successor model to the Ariane 5, which was in use from 1996 to summer 2023. It is intended to carry satellites into space for commercial and public clients and is significantly cheaper than its predecessor. The new rocket is intended to make Europe’s space travel more competitive. It was originally scheduled to launch into space in 2020.
The upper stage of the rocket was assembled in the Bremen factory of the space company ArianeGroup. The main stage will be built in the French town of Les Mureaux. The missile components are expected to arrive in Kourou, French Guiana, at the end of the month. There they are then assembled into the central body of the rocket.
There are currently orders for 28 flights with an Ariane 6. The first commercial flight of the rocket is scheduled to take place before the end of 2024. The European space agency Esa plans to launch a large mission into space with the rocket for the first time at the beginning of next year. The Ariane 6 will be used at least until the mid-2030s, said Esa Director of Space Transport Toni Tolker-Nielsen.
Europe’s space industry is currently in a difficult situation with regard to launch vehicles. The last Ariane 5 took off into space last July. Since then, ESA has no longer had its own resources to launch large satellites into space. There are also problems with the lighter satellites: After the Vega C failed to launch on its first commercial flight in December 2022, this rocket will also remain on the ground for the time being. It is scheduled to fly into space again for the first time in mid-November./rbo/DP/ngu