Launch Overview

Liftoff Time
March 31, 2024 - 00:00 GMT (00:00 UTC)

Who is Arianespace?

Arianespace SA is a multinational company founded in 1980 as the world's first commercial launch service provider. It undertakes the operation, and marketing of the Ariane programme. Their vehicles launch exclusively from French Guiana in South America.

What Is Ariane 64?

Ariane 6 is an expendable launch vehicle currently being developed by ArianeGroup for the European Space Agency. It will replace Ariane 5 as the primary heavy-lift launch vehicle for Europe. The first flight was originally planned for 2020 while in 2019 but now the original flight is expected to be in late 2023/2024.


Equipped Solid Rockets


Image credit: CNES/ESA/Arianespace/CSG Video Optics/JM Guillon

Ariane 6 can be equipped with either two or four Equipped Solid Rockets (ESR). The ESR are P120C solid rocket boosters (SRB) developed by Avio and ArianeGroup. Each P120C has approximately 142 tonnes (313,000 lb) of propellant and can produce 4,650 kN of thrust. When Ariane 6 has two ESR it's called Ariane 62 and when it has four ESR it's called Ariane 64.

Each P120C is 11.7 metres tall and 3.5 metres wide. A future upgrade of the P120C, called P120C+, is planned to make it slightly taller for extra thrust. The "C" in P120C stands for "Common" as the booster is also used on the Vega-C and Vega-E launchers.

Lower Liquid Propulsion Module


Image credit: CNES/ESA/Arianespace/CSG Video Optics/JM Guillon, 2022

The first stage is called the Lower Liquid Propulsion Module (LLPM). It's powered by a single Vulcain 2.1 engine burning liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX). Vulcain 2.1 is an upgraded version of the Vulcain 2 used on the Ariane 5 rocket. It boasts lower manufacturing costs than Vulcain 2. The LLPM is 5.4 metres wide.

Upper Liquid Propulsion Module


Image credit: ESA - S. Corvaja

The second stage is called the Upper Liquid Propulsion Module (ULPM). It's powered by the Vinci engine which produces 180 kN of thrust. Vinci also burns liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen like the LLPM. Unlike the ECA upper stage on Ariane 5, ULPM will be able to have multiple restarts. The stage shares the same diameter as the LLPM.

Payload Fairing

Ariane 6 has an ogive-shaped payload fairing that's available in two sizes. A 20 metre tall version is available for Ariane 62 and Ariane 64 while a 14 metre version is available for just Ariane 62. Both fairing types are the same 5.4 metre diameter as the main rocket and are made out of carbon fibre-polymer composite.


Ariane 6 was conceived in the early 2010s to be a replacement for the highly successful Ariane 5 rocket. Development was slow to start however as future Ariane 5 upgrades meant that the need for it wasn't there. CNES realised the need for a new launcher was apparent as Ariane 5 was only competitive in dual launch and couldn't be modular. The Ariane 5 upper stage couldn't be reignited, unlike its competitors. Ariane 5 was also an expensive rocket and Europe needed a cheaper option as ESA was not satisfied. All of these factors combined helped push the effort to get Europe a new heavy launcher.

In 2009 CNES recommends developing Ariane 6 as a way to adapt to the changing launcher market. The Ariane 6 proposed in 2009 was very different to the one we know today. Back then it was not intended for manned spaceflight, double launches were abandoned, only 6 tonnes to GTO was intended and the rocket would be modular. A few of those features have been kept to this day but they’ve all been changed in some way or another. 

Perspectives on Ariane 5 evolutions and Ariane 6 differed from organisation to organisation. CNES wanted Ariane 6 development to start as soon as possible while Germany wanted to evolve Ariane 5 by upgrading the ESC-A upper stage, from Ariane 5 ECA, and giving it the Vinci engine. Via that upgrade, the Ariane 5 capacity to GTO would be increased to 11 tonnes from 9 tonnes. This upgrade would’ve been called Ariane 5 ME (Mid-life Evolution). Development of Vinci from Ariane 5 ME would later be transferred to Ariane 6. 

By 2014 the Ariane 5 ME programme was abandoned and the final configuration for Ariane 6 was proposed. The Ariane 6 proposed here was going to have solid rocket boosters derived from the Vega launcher, the ability to have two or four of those boosters, lower manufacturing costs and a simpler Vinci engine on the second stage. Ariane 6 was not going to be reusable despite SpaceX already having the reusable Falcon 9.

In 2016 the final configuration was validated. The launcher would have a core stage derived from the Ariane 5 EPC with a variant of the Vulcan 2 engine, two or four P120C boosters and a cryogenic second stage using a Vinci engine. 

In 2020 ESA formally requested an a an additional €230 million in funding from the countries sponsoring the project to complete development of the rocket and get the vehicle to its first test flight, which had slipped to the second quarter of 2022 by that point. By June 2021 the launch date for the first flight had slipped to the second quarter of 2022. Multiple other delays happened after that and in October 2022 ESA clarified the launch would be no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2023. No public reason was given for that delay.





The Vinci engine is an expander cycle engine using liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX) as its fuel and oxidiser. Its biggest improvement from its predecessor, the MH7B, which powers the ESC-A stage on the Ariane 5 rocket, is the capability of restarting multiple times.

Complex Overview

Launch Facility
Kourou, French Guiana
Launch Pad
Ariane Launch Area 4
Turnaround Time
3 months

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