Historic First Launch of Ariane 6: How to Watch and What to Expect

By Lydia Amazouz Published on July 5, 2024 09:30
Historic First Launch of Ariane 6: How to Watch and What to Expect

The Ariane 6, the latest rocket from the European Space Agency (ESA), is set for its highly anticipated first launch, marking a significant milestone in European space exploration.

This new launch vehicle is designed to provide Europe with a more versatile, cost-effective, and sustainable means of accessing space, paving the way for a wide range of scientific, commercial, and technological missions.

Launch Details and Viewing Options

The inaugural launch of Ariane 6 is scheduled for July 9, 2024, with a launch window from 15:00 to 19:00 local time at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (19:00–23:00 BST, 20:00–00:00 CEST).

The live stream of the launch will begin approximately 30 minutes before liftoff on ESAWebTV, providing viewers with in-depth coverage and commentary in multiple languages, including English, French, and German.

The launch represents a significant moment for ESA and the European space industry, as it has been years in the making, with considerable anticipation surrounding its success.

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Ariane 6: A New Era in European Space Transportation

Ariane 6 is the successor to the highly successful Ariane 5, which was operational from 1996 until 2023. The new rocket is designed to be lighter, taller, and more cost-effective, with enhanced flexibility to place satellites in various orbits.

Dr. Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General, highlighted the versatility and sustainability of Ariane 6, emphasizing its importance for maintaining European autonomous access to space.

This flexibility is crucial for meeting the diverse needs of satellite deployment, from commercial telecommunications to scientific research and Earth observation.

The rocket comes in two configurations, Ariane 62 and Ariane 64, depending on the number of boosters used. This adaptability allows it to carry different payloads to various orbits, including high-capacity missions to the Moon and beyond. The design improvements and modern technologies integrated into Ariane 6 promise to enhance the reliability and efficiency of Europe’s space launches, ensuring a robust presence in the global space industry.

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Three Phases of the Inaugural Flight

Phase 1: From Ground to Orbit

The first phase of the Ariane 6 flight involves launching the rocket off Earth and into space. This is achieved through the thrust provided by the main stage engine, Vulcain 2.1, and two powerful P120C boosters.

This phase includes the critical separation of the main stage from the upper stage and the initial boost of the Vinci engine, which inserts the rocket into an elliptical orbit approximately 300 by 700 kilometers above Earth.

This phase demonstrates the rocket's ability to follow a flight profile similar to that of its predecessor, Ariane 5, validating its design and performance under actual flight conditions.

Phase 2: Upper Stage Reignition and Satellite Deployment

In the second phase, the Vinci engine will reignite to transition the orbit from elliptical to circular. This phase is crucial as it tests the new capability of the upper stage to restart its engine in zero gravity, a complex task due to the free-floating nature of fuels in the tanks.

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The Auxiliary Propulsion Unit (APU) plays a vital role here by providing a steady thrust to settle the fuel, ensuring the successful reignition of the Vinci engine. During this phase, Ariane 6 will deploy its first payloads, including the OOV-Cube, Curium One, Robusta-3A satellites, and others.

The successful completion of this phase will demonstrate the rocket's ability to deliver multiple satellites into precise orbits on a single mission, showcasing its enhanced versatility and efficiency.

Phase 3: Tech Demos, Deorbiting, and Capsule Separation

The final phase will push the upper stage of Ariane 6 to its limits, validating its performance under microgravity conditions and its ability to undertake complex maneuvers.

This phase includes a controlled deorbit of the upper stage over the ‘NEMO point’ in the South Pacific, ensuring it does not contribute to space debris. The stage will also release two reentry capsules designed to survive atmospheric reentry, providing valuable data for future missions.

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The passivation of the upper stage, removing any remaining energy to prevent explosions, is another crucial step for ensuring sustainability. This phase underscores ESA's commitment to reducing space debris and promoting environmentally responsible space exploration.

Sustainability Features

Ariane 6 is built with sustainability in mind, incorporating numerous design features aimed at minimizing environmental impact. Its launchpad is designed to reduce carbon emissions, and the rocket components are delivered to the launch site using partially wind-powered cargo ships.

Additionally, the hydrogen fuel used in the rocket is produced using solar power, reducing carbon emissions by 80%. These measures reflect ESA's commitment to sustainable space exploration, ensuring that technological advancements do not come at the expense of the environment. The comprehensive environmental impact analysis, to be completed after the launch, will provide further insights into the rocket’s overall sustainability performance.

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Significance for European Space Exploration

This launch represents a crucial step for Europe, ensuring guaranteed access to space for scientific, commercial, and technological missions. Ariane 6’s ability to carry heavier payloads and reach farther destinations positions it as a key player in future space endeavors.

The successful deployment of this rocket will not only enhance Europe’s capabilities in space but also strengthen its position in the global space industry, fostering innovation and collaboration.

For enthusiasts and professionals alike, the launch of Ariane 6 is a historic event, symbolizing the dawn of a new era in European space capabilities. As Europe takes this significant step forward, the successful launch and operation of Ariane 6 will pave the way for future missions, contributing to the exploration and understanding of our universe.


An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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