Ariane 6 faces tough odds in its first launch

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The highly anticipated first flight of Ariane 6 may finally take place this summer after years of delays.
But before we can get too excited, European Space Agency Director General Josef Aschbacher is already setting the rocket up for failure without it even reaching the launchpad yet.
Although he didn’t refer to Ariane 6 specifically, the statement puts a major damper on the upcoming debut of the long-awaited heavy-lift rocket.
The 197-foot-tall (60-meter) rocket is capable of lifting 10 metric tons to low Earth orbit, 4.5 metric tons to Sun synchronous orbital (SSO) altitudes reaching 500 miles (800 kilometers), and upwards of 10.5 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbits (GEO).
French company Arianespace is developing the rocket on behalf of ESA, with Ariane 6 serving as a successor to the now-retired Ariane 5.
During that time, Ariane 5 served as the European market’s main ride to space and, without it, Europe is scrambling for rocket options that can deliver its payloads to orbit.
However, Ariane 6 is now tentatively scheduled for liftoff in June or July of this year.
Even if the rocket does get to take off this summer, Aschbacher’s comments remind us that success is barely a 50-50 shot.

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After years of delays, the much awaited launch of Ariane 6 could finally occur this summer. Josef Aschbacher, the director general of the European Space Agency, is already preparing the rocket for failure before it even reaches the launchpad, so we better not get too excited.

Aschbacher brought up the fact that heavy-lift rockets have a 47 percent chance of encountering a significant anomaly on their first flight during a panel discussion at this week’s 39th Space Symposium, according to European Spaceflight. Even though he didn’t mention Ariane 6 by name, the remarks severely undermine the impending launch of the eagerly anticipated heavy-lift rocket.

The development of Ariane 6 has lasted for over ten years. The rocket, which stands 197 feet tall (60 meters) and weighs 10 metric tons, can lift up to 4 metric tons to Sun synchronous orbital (SSO) altitudes of up to 500 miles (800 kilometers) and up to 10 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbits (GEO). For ESA, the rocket is being developed by the French company Arianespace, and Ariane 6 will replace the now-retired Ariane 5. After 27 years of service, the fabled rocket made its last flight in July.

Ariane 5 was the primary spacecraft for the European market during that time, and now that it has been discontinued, Europe is frantically searching for other rockets that can carry its payloads into orbit. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe severed its ties with the country and had to cease depending on the Soyuz rockets to reach space. Just now, ESA turned to the U. s. The Euclid telescope was launched on July 1, 2023, using a Falcon 9 rocket, and will be delivered by the company SpaceX.

Prior to the covid-19 pandemic and other technical difficulties during development, the original launch date of Ariane 6 was set for 2020 but was ultimately pushed back to late 2022. After that, the rocket’s first flight was continuously delayed, and in December 2023, a crucial test of the upper stage was called off after just two minutes of engine running.

Regarding its inquiry into the unsuccessful test, Arianespace remained silent. That being said, Ariane 6’s launch window is now provisionally set for this June or July. The remarks made by Aschbacher serve as a reminder that success is hardly a sure thing, even if the rocket is able to take off this summer.

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