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Ariane 6 "GO" For Launch On July 6

The European Space Agency (ESA) and its partners have officially announced that the first Ariane 6 rocket will launch on July 9.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Sun Jun 09 2024Written by Zac Aubert

The European Space Agency (ESA) and its partners have officially announced that the first Ariane 6 rocket will launch on July 9. The announcement was made during the ILA Berlin Air Show on June 5, following a previous indication that the launch would occur within the first two weeks of July. ESA has not yet disclosed a specific launch time or window.

“The announcement of the scheduled date for Ariane 6’s first flight puts us on the home stretch of the launch campaign and we are fully engaged in completing the very last steps,” - Martin Sion, Chief Executive of ArianeGroup

The final preparations for the launch include a fueling test and a practice countdown, known as a wet dress rehearsal (WDR), scheduled for June 18. This schedule was confirmed by ESA last month and remains unchanged with the new launch date announcement.

The inaugural flight of the Ariane 6 is primarily a demonstration mission. It will carry eight cubesats from various companies and organizations and five payloads that will stay attached to the rocket's upper stage. Additionally, the mission will deploy two reentry capsules, one developed by ArianeGroup and the other by The Exploration Company, a European startup awarded an ESA contract to develop a commercial cargo spacecraft.

The importance of this launch extends beyond the payloads. The Ariane 6, which has faced years of delays, is crucial for resolving Europe's "launcher crisis" that has left the continent without independent access to space. This crisis was exacerbated by delays in the Ariane 6 program, the retirement of the Ariane 5, the loss of the Soyuz rocket following Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and a Vega C launch failure in late 2022.

“Ariane 6 marks a new era of autonomous, versatile European space travel...This powerful rocket is the culmination of many years of dedication and ingenuity from thousands across Europe and, as it launches, it will re-establish Europe’s independent access to space.” - Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director General

A qualification review has identified several unspecified issues with the launch system that needed resolution before the launch. However, ESA is confident that none of these issues are significant enough to prevent the launch

“This would be followed by a steady rise to around 10 launches a year once we reach cruising speed,” - Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive of Arianespace,

If the inaugural launch is successful, a second launch could occur before the end of the year; for comparison, SpaceX completed 14 launches of its Falcon 9 rocket in May 2024 alone.

The success of Ariane 6 is vital for Europe's space ambitions, providing a versatile and autonomous launch capability and ensuring the continent remains a key player in the global space industry.