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Europe regains access to space with successful inaugural Ariane 6 launch

ArianeGroup’s new heavy-lift rocket, Ariane 6, successfully made its inaugural flight from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana at 16:00 local time.  

Ariane 6, the latest in the Ariane rocket series, boasts a modular and versatile design capable of launching missions to low-Earth orbit and deep space. The launcher features a re-ignitable upper stage, allowing different satellites to be launched into several orbits during a single flight. 

The inaugural flight, designated VA262, demonstrated the capabilities of Ariane 6. Despite being a test, the rocket carried several satellites and experiments from various space agencies, companies, research institutes, and universities. At 21:06 BST, an hour after liftoff, the first set of satellites was successfully deployed into an orbit 600 km above Earth. 

Ariane 6’s successful debut sets the stage for its future commercial operations. The next flight models are already in production and scheduled for launch in 2024, with 14 other flights planned over the following two years. In April 2022, Amazon ordered 18 launches from ArianeGroup, the prime contractor and design authority of Ariane 6, to deploy a constellation of internet satellites as part of its Project Kuiper. 

A strategic launch under scrutiny 

The launch marks a significant milestone for the European Space Agency (ESA) and its partners after four years of delays in the program. ESA had been without access to space for a year following the retirement of Ariane 5 in July 2023. It also faced a significant setback following the unsuccessful launch of Vega-C in 2022. 

“I am privileged to have witnessed this historic moment when Europe’s new generation of the Ariane family lifted off – successfully – effectively reinstating European access to space,” Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director General, said. 

With such a sensitive launch, security during the launch was ensured by the French Armed Forces in Guyana (FAG) as part of Operation Titan.  

The forces maintained the safety of the space base during the launch by utilizing a GM-400 air defense radar, two Fennec helicopters, and Mistral ground-to-air missiles.  

Three Rafale fighter jets from the 4th Fighter Wing were deployed to Air Base 367 in Cayenne on July 1, 2024, to enforce airspace protection.  

Trois Rafale déployés depuis la 🇫🇷, deux Fennec de l’ET 68 et leurs moyens de #LAD, ainsi qu’un Puma appuyant les forces au sol ont permis de créer une bulle de protection aérienne pour sécuriser le port spatial européen de toute intrusion malveillante sur terre et dans les airs. pic.twitter.com/swkoPucIu3

— Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace (@Armee_de_lair) July 9, 2024  The post Europe regains access to space with successful inaugural Ariane 6 launch appeared first on AeroTime.

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