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  • Satellite Evolution Group

Successful Ariane 6 core stage long-duration hot-fire test

On November 23, 2023, teams from ArianeGroup, the French Space Agency (CNES), and the European Space Agency (ESA) successfully carried out the long-duration hot-fire test of the Ariane 6 core stage on its launch pad at Europe’s Spaceport, French Guiana.

This new complete hot-fire test of Ariane 6’s core stage is a key step in the combined tests campaign. It follows on from the initial integration of the Ariane 6 launcher on its launch pad, electrical and fluids functional qualification tests, and the first launch sequence tests. These tests were successfully carried out on July 18, 2023 with the very first countdown sequence rehearsal, covering preparation, fueling, and draining operations, on September 5, 2023 with the ignition and four-second stabilized operation of the core stage Vulcain 2.1 engine, and on October 23, at night, with a 30-hour-long launch sequence plus multiple qualification tests on several launch system functions.

The November 23 test sequence was run the same way as the previous ones, with a launch sequence and final countdown representative of a launch, including removal of the mobile gantry and filling the launcher’s upper and core stage tanks with liquid hydrogen (-253° Celsius) and liquid oxygen (-183° Celsius). The test ended with the ignition of the core stage Vulcain 2.1 engine, followed by more than 7 minutes of stabilized operation covering the entire core stage flight phase.

All functional aspects of Ariane 6’s core stage during the flight phase were tested. The success of this hot-fire test contributes to qualification of the launch sequence operations and to qualification of the Ariane 6 launcher, particularly the core stage.

The Ariane 6 upper stage has already been hot-fire tested on its inaugural flight mission profile by ArianeGroup, the German Space Agency DLR, and ESA on the test bench in Lampoldshausen (Germany) on September 1.

“Ariane 6 now has a core stage and an upper stage which have undergone all testing necessary to be ready for the inaugural flight. Successfully completing such complex stage tests is a real industrial feat and I would like to congratulate the teams from ArianeGroup and all our partners, particularly ESA, CNES, and DLR, on the high quality of their work. On this final stretch towards the first flight, we still have to carry out a few additional tests to demonstrate fault tolerance, deliver the first launcher to Kourou, and perform the launch system qualification review,” said Martin Sion, CEO of ArianeGroup.

“The success of this long-duration hot-fire test of the Vulcain engine enabling us to validate operation of the core stage is very good news, taking us closer to Ariane 6’s inaugural flight. We have accomplished this key milestone thanks to the unrelenting efforts of the teams at CNES, ArianeGroup, and ESA. The ever-growing body of data collected and analyzed accumulated through weeks of testing enables our teams to understand and master this new launch system. Ariane 6 is above all a great team effort,” said Philippe Baptiste, Chairman & CEO of CNES.

“The teams at ArianeGroup, CNES and ESA have now completed every step of the launcher’s flight without it ever leaving Earth,” commented Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA). “This test is a key milestone that comes after years of design, planning, preparation, construction and hard work by some of Europe’s very best space engineers. We are back on track to re-establish Europe’s autonomous access to space. Well done everyone!”

This new step contributes to the final qualification of the entire launch system, consisting of the launcher and the launch site.

The Ariane 6 program is managed and funded by ESA. 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 and its contractual partners are responsible for the construction of the launch pad dedicated to Ariane 6 in Kourou. CNES in partnership with ArianeGroup also conducts the combined tests under the responsibility of ESA.

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