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  • Satellite Evolution Group

Start of the first Ariane 6 launch campaign on the launch pad

The central core and the two boosters for the first Ariane 6 flight model, an Ariane 62 version, were transferred to and installed on the launch pad on April 24, 25 and 26.
The central core and the two boosters for the first Ariane 6 flight model, an Ariane 62 version, were transferred to and installed on the launch pad on April 24, 25 and 26.

The central core and two boosters for the first flight of the Ariane 62 launcher are now on the launch pad at the heart of the Ariane 6 special launch complex ELA4* at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The transfer and installation operations were carried out between April 24 and 26 under the responsibility of the European Space Agency (ESA) by an integrated ESA–ArianeGroup–CNES team. 

The arrival of the components of Flight Model 1 on the launch pad marks the beginning of a new step in the inaugural launch campaign for the new European launcher. 

On April 24, four Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) transported the Ariane 6 central core, consisting of the two interconnected cryogenic stages (main and upper), in a horizontal position at a speed of 3 km/h from the Launcher Assembly Building (BAL) to its launch pad 800 meters away. 

The operation continued with the installation of the central core on the launch pad, with choreographed movements by two AGVs and a crane equipped with a lifting beam that raised the central core from the horizontal to the vertical position and placing it on the launch table. 

The launcher’s two boosters were transported vertically to the launch pad on April 25 and 26, on a specially designed truck. They were placed on the launch table on either side of the central core, thus making up the Ariane 62 configuration. 

“It was with great pride and considerable emotion that the teams from ArianeGroup, ESA and CNES delivered and installed the first Ariane 6 flight model on its launch pad. Seeing the new European launcher standing on the launch zone marks the completion of years of work in the design offices and production plants of ArianeGroup and all our industrial partners in Europe. This event also signals the beginning of a new step of the first flight campaign, with all the challenges and complexities that this entails. The members of our Space Team Europe are bringing all their know-how and expertise to bear to ensure that the first flight will be a total success,” said Martin Sion, ArianeGroup CEO.

“Here we are! The Ariane 6 program is now entering its final stretch before the inaugural flight from the Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. European sovereignty of access to space is once again possible, thanks to the hard work of the ESA, ArianeGroup and CNES teams. I'd like to thank them and send them my best wishes for the final steps. Go Ariane 6! ,” said Philippe Baptiste, CEO of the French Space Agency (CNES). “Getting Ariane 6 to launch and to re-establish Europe’s access to space is of highest priority for ESA to resume regular rocket launches from Europe’s Spaceport,” explains ESA’s Director General, Josef Aschbacher, “Having the rocket stages together on the launch pad marks the start of a launch campaign and shows we are almost there: soon we will see this beauty soar to the skies.” 

In the coming days, the boosters will be connected to the central core. For this, the core will be raised with the lifting beam and the boosters will be moved the last few centimeters into their final positions. The central core will then be supported by the boosters and the teams will complete the mechanical and electrical connections, followed by a series of functional controls.

With the launcher on the launch pad, all that remains to complete the launcher is to install the upper composite, comprising of the fairing and the payloads. This will be done directly on the launch pad a few weeks before launch.

Final assembly of Ariane 6 directly on its launch pad is one of the major innovations in the launcher assembly process, with the aim of maximizing industrial efficiency and shortening assembly cycles and the duration of launch campaigns. 

Ariane 6 is a European Space Agency programme for which ESA is the overall procuring entity and launch system architect. As industrial lead contractor and design authority for the launcher, ArianeGroup is responsible for its development and production with its industrial partners, as well as for its marketing through its Arianespace subsidiary. CNES is lead contractor, design authority of the Ariane 6 launch base and operates the launch range facilities at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.


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