ESA Ariane 6 progress

For the development of Ariane 6, ESA is working with an industrial network of several hundred companies in 13 European countries, led by prime contractor ArianeGroup.

Ariane 6 is a European expendable launch system developed by ArianeGroup on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA). It replaces the Ariane 5, as part of the Ariane launch vehicle family. The stated motivation for Ariane 6 (as of 2015) was to halve the cost compared to Ariane 5, and increase the capacity for the number of launches per year (from six or seven to up to eleven).

Ariane 6 elements

Ariane 6 comprises three stages: two or four strap-on boosters, and a lower and upper stage – the central core.

The lower stage with solid rocket boosters propels Ariane 6 in the first phase of flight, delivering 135 tonnes of thrust in vacuum. The core stage is powered by the liquid-fuelled Vulcain 2.1 – an upgraded engine derived from Ariane 5’s Vulcain 2 – and either two or four P120C boosters to provide additional thrust at liftoff.

The upper stage is powered by the reignitable Vinci engine fuelled by cryogenic liquid oxygen and hydrogen. This allows Ariane 6 to reach a range of orbits on a single mission to deliver more payloads. The upper stage will typically burn one, two or more times to reach the required orbits. After separation of the payload, there will be a final burn to deorbit the upper stage, to mitigate space debris.

The ogive-shaped fairing at the top of Ariane 6 is available in two sizes: 20 m (A64/A62) and 14 m (A62). Both are 5.4 m in diameter and made of carbon fibre-polymer composite. The fairing protects satellites from the thermal, acoustic and aerodynamic stresses on the ascent to space.

Ariane 6 launch zone

Ariane 6 will be launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana from a dedicated launch site 4 km west of the Ariane 5 launch pad. The main structures include the Launch Vehicle Assembly Building, the mobile gantry and launch pad.

The Spaceport covers 170 hectares, with buildings on 18 hectares. Its location is ideal; with open sea to the north and east, and the town of Kourou 17 km distant, flight safety constraints are minimised. And, because the Spaceport is just 5° north of the equator, flights to the east gain very nearly the maximum possible speed boost from the Earth’s rotation, increasing payload performance for any rocket – much more than from more northerly or southerly locations.

Ariane 6 two configurations
Ariane 62 (A62) and Ariane 64 (A64)

Lower Liquid Propulsion Module

The first stage of Ariane 6 is called the Lower Liquid Propulsion Module (LLPM). It is powered by a single Vulcain 2.1 engine, burning liquid hydrogen (LH2) with liquid oxygen (LOX). Vulcain 2.1 is an updated version of the Vulcain 2 engine from Ariane 5 with lower manufacturing costs.[clarification needed] The LLPM is 5.4 m (18 ft) in diameter and contains approximately 140 tonnes (310,000 lb) of propellant.

Solid Rockets (ESR)

Additional thrust for the first stage will be provided by either two or four P120 Solid rocket boosters, known within Ariane 6 nomenclature as Equipped Solid Rockets (ESR). Each booster contains approximately 142 tonnes (313,000 lb) of propellant and delivers up to 4,650 kN (1,050,000 lbf) of thrust. The P120 motor is also first stage of the upgraded Vega C smallsat launcher. The increased production volumes through sharing motors lowers production costs.

The first full-scale test of the ESR occurred at Kourou on 16 July 2018, and the test completed successfully with the thrust reaching 4,615 kN (1,037,000 lbf) in vacuum.

Upper Liquid Propulsion Module

The upper stage of Ariane 6 is called the Upper Liquid Propulsion Module (ULPM). It features the same 5.4 m (18 ft) diameter as the LLPM, and also burns liquid hydrogen with oxygen. It is powered by the Vinci engine delivering 180 kN (40,000 lbf) of thrust and enabling multiple restarts. The ULPM will carry about 31 tonnes (68,000 lb) of propellant.

Ariane 6 VINCI engine
Ariane 6 Upper stage: Vinci rocket engine

Ariane 6 orbital types

  • LEO = Low Earth Orbit.
  • SSO = Sun-Synchronous Orbit (heliosynchronous).
  • GTO = Geostationary Transfer Orbit .
  • MEO = Medium Earth Orbit (Earth-centered orbit with an altitude).
  • Sun-Earth L2 orbit = For space-based observatories, Lagrange point.
  • Areocentric orbit= Around the planet Mars.
  • TLI = Trans-Lunar Injection orbit.
  • Halo = Periodic, three-dimensional orbit associated with one of the L1, L2 or L3 Lagrange points in the three-body problem of orbital mechanics.
  • Heliocentric orbit = Superseded astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun at the center of the universe.

Ariane 6 configurations

  • Ariane 5 ES
      • Mass 775 t
      • Payload capacity 21 t (300 km LEO)
      • First flight 09-03-2008
      • 3 solid boosters
  • Ariane 62
      • Mass 530 t
      • Payload capacity 4,720 kg (GTO)
  • Ariane 64
      • Mass 860 t
      • Payload capacity 5,000 kg (GTO)

ESA Ariane 6 mission (Flight 1)

  • Flight 1 (Inaugural flight Ariane 6).
  • Launch date: 00-00-2024 (between 15-06-2024 and 31-07-2024).
  • Launch location: Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Rocket type: Ariane 62.
  • Orbit: LEO.
  • Payload: Multiple rideshare.
  • Customers: PTS, TU Berlin, ArianeGroup, BarcelonaTech, NASA, TUKE, University of Lisbon.

2014-2023 Ariane 6 completed

  • 00-12-2014 Design concept Ariane 6 by ESA. Replacing Ariane 5.
  • 00-00-2015 High-level design phase.
  • 00-00-2016 Design phase.
  • 16-07-2018 First full-scale ESR test completed successfully with the thrust reaching 4,615 kN (1,037,000 lbf) in vacuum.
  • 00-05-2019 Arianespace placed the first production order.
  • 18-07-2023 Combined test: First fueling and init countdown leading to engine ignition.
  • 05-09-2023 First ignition of the Vulcain 2.1 engine on the launch pad.
  • 23-10-2023 A 30-hour-long chronology including additional qualification tests.
  • 23-11-2023 Full-scale firing Vulcain 2.1 engine covering the core stage flight phase.
  • 15-12-2023 Launch countdown robustness qualification in degraded conditions, including abort launch and emergency draining propellant.

2024 Ariane 6 completed

  • 30-01-2024 Disconnection of cryogenic connection systems and umbilicals both electrical and ventilation systems.
  • 05-02-2024 Disconnection of cryogenic connection systems and umbilicals both electrical and ventilation systems.
  • 21-02-2024 Arrival of the flight stages from Europe on board the Canopée in Pariacabo Harbour, Kourou.
  • 28-02-2024 The main stage and the upper stage of the inaugural flight of Ariane 6 have been unloaded at the launcher assembly building (BAL) and their integration has begun.
  • 11-03-2024 The first booster from the inaugural flight of Ariane 6, integrated into the booster finishing building, was moved to the launcher integration building for storage.
  • 13-03-2024 The Ariane 6 model which remained on the launch pad for more than a year and used for the qualification of the new launcher has been completely dismantled and the launch pad is now free for preparations for the inaugural flight of Ariane 6 .
  • 14-03-2024 The second booster for the inaugural flight of Ariane 6 has begun to be integrated into the booster finishing building in French Guiana.
  • 14-03-2024 Press release by the ESA, preparing for launch (between 15-06-2024 and 31-07-2024)
  • 15-03-2024 The upper floor and the main floor are now connected to form the central body. The Upper Liquid Propulsion Module and the Lower Liquid Propulsion Module were assembled horizontally at the Launcher Assembly Building (BAL) to form the central body of Ariane 6.
  • 18-03-2024 Integration of the core stage in launcher integration building.

2024 Ariane 6 in progress

  • 00-04-2024 Second booster ready.
  • 00-04-2024 Verticalization of the central body.
  • 00-05-2024 Payloads arrival in Kourou.
  • 15-06-2024 Flight 1. Rocket type: Ariane 62, Payload: Multiple rideshare, Orbit: LEO, Customers: PTS, TU Berlin, ArianeGroup, BarcelonaTech, NASA, TUKE, University of Lisbon. Inaugural flight Ariane 6 (between 15-06-2024 and 31-07-2024).
  • 00-09-2024 Flight 2. Rocket type: Ariane 62, Payload: CSO-3, Orbit: SSO, Customer: CNES/DGA.
  • 00-02-2025 Flight 3. Rocket type: Ariane 64, Payload: MTG-S1, Orbit: GTO, Customer: EUMETSAT.

2024 ESA Ariane 6 sequence of events (Flight 1)

Ariane 6 is assembled horizontally, the transferred to the pad where it is raised vertically thanks to the gantry. The fairing with the satellites inside is hoisted and connected to the top. The mobile gantry protects the launcher during preparations on the pad and it allows the teams to work on the rocket until shortly before liftoff. There are 22 levels with platforms. Cryo technic propellant runs through 300 meter pipes under the ground. Shortly before launch the mobile gantry will be removed.

  • T-48:00:00 Start countdown clock.
  • T-48:00:00 Removal of the mobile gantry.
  • T-48:00:00 Launch pad clear.
  • T-48:00:00 Electrical test.
  • T-48:00:00 Fluid System Test.
  • T-48:00:00 Propellant loading core stage (LOX).
  • T-48:00:00 Propellant loading core stage (LH2).
  • T-48:00:00 Propellant loading upper stage (LOX).
  • T-48:00:00 Propellant loading upper stage (LH2).
  • T-48:00:00 Launch sequence start.
  • T-48:00:00 Start Vulcain 2.1 engine.
  • T-24:00:00 Start countdown clock.
  • T-00:00:00 Launch (start mission time).
  • T+00:02:00 Jettison boosters (2 or 4).
  • T+00:02:03 Jettison fairing.
  • T+00:03:00 First stage separation.
  • T+00:05:00 Start Vinci engine.
  • T+00:06:00 Cut-off Vinci engine.
  • T+00:07:00 Initiation roll maneuver.
  • T+00:20:00 Release payload.