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  • Satellite Evolution

Conpée cargo ship docks in French Guiana for the first time

Canopée, the new Ariane 6 transport ship, reached Pariacabo harbor in French Guiana for the first time on January 13, 2023, after leaving Rotterdam in the Netherlands on December 27, 2022, on its very first voyage to French Guiana. This first transatlantic crossing marks the end of sea trials.

“With the sea qualification of Canopée, we have achieved a further milestone in the Ariane 6 adventure. This cargo ship completely meets the program objectives: reducing costs, shortening production cycles, and reducing our environmental footprint,” says Karl-Heinz Servos, ArianeGroup’s Head of Industry. “The success of the sea trials means that qualification tests can now begin in the harbors where Canopée will dock. Canopée will transport the inaugural flight Ariane 6 launcher from this summer, then the following launchers which are already being integrated at ArianeGroup’s sites in France and Germany.”

Canopée has been custom-built to meet the complex requirements of Ariane 6 transport. It is a hybrid-propulsion vessel designed to ship all the launcher stages and sub-assemblies together, to be environmentally friendly, and to halve shipping costs, particularly by the use of wingsails. Canopée’s structure is tailored to be able to carry large, fragile loads and to navigate the shallow Kourou river in French Guiana right up to Pariacabo harbor. Canopée measures 121 metres in length, with a 22-meter beam. Its total displacement tonnage is 10,000 tons, and it can travel at a speed of 17 knots.

Construction of Canopée began in 2020 in the Polish port of Sczezcin, under the direction of maritime company Alizés, a joint venture between offshore services specialist Jifmar and naval architects Zéphyr & Borée, which won ArianeGroup’s tender for the project. The first build stage included assembly of structural elements, installation of engines and control systems, and fitting out the ship. Canopée was first launched in June 2022, traveling from Sczezcin to Rotterdam, where fitting out was completed (cabling, navigation instrumentation, system start-up, router implementation and cabin layout).

Sea trials were then undertaken over several days to check that all electrical, propulsion, and safety systems were functioning correctly. Canopée’s seaworthiness certificate was received on December 23, 2022. ArianeGroup began operating Canopée at the end of December 2022, allowing the ship to make its first ocean crossing to French Guiana and complete sea trials. Canopée’s return leg to Europe will provide key data for future voyages. The ship will be fitted with its four articulated wingsails by the summer.

In the Ariane 6 program, ArianeGroup is responsible for transporting the launcher components from Europe to French Guiana, using the first sailing cargo ship designed and developed by the joint venture Alizés for ArianeGroup.

Ariane 6 is a program of the European Space Agency (ESA), which is responsible for the entire launch system architecture. As lead contractor and design authority for the launcher, ArianeGroup is in charge of development and production, with its industrial partners, along with marketing and operation, via its subsidiary Arianespace.


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