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November 8, 2022

Ariane 6

To retain its own independent launch capability and meet its customers’ increasingly diverse needs, the European Space Agency (ESA) set in train the Ariane 6 programme in December 2014.

Europe’s heavy-lift launcher is set to offer two variants—Ariane 62 and Ariane 64—and a reignitable upper stage capability, bringing greater flexibility in lift capacity and reachable orbits while significantly reducing the cost of space launch. Its maiden flight is scheduled for 2024 from the Guiana Space Centre.

Ariane 64 will have four solid-rocket boosters, giving it the ability like Ariane 5 to place two telecommunications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit and multiple satellites for large constellations.

Ariane 62, meanwhile, will have two boosters and is therefore designed chiefly to launch scientific satellites, Galileo positioning satellites and Earth-observing satellites into low and medium Earth orbits, while also offering the capacity to loft a single satellite payload into geostationary orbit.

Both variants of the launcher feature an upper stage powered by the new Vinci engine, capable of reigniting to inject one or more satellites into very specific orbits. Ariane 6 also has two new P120C solid-rocket boosters and a new 2.1 version of the Vulcain engine. Technology innovations include additive manufacturing (AM) and friction-stir-welding to fabricate the launcher’s propellant tanks.

ESA is providing programme oversight and has delegated responsibility to ArianeGroup for the design and integration of Ariane 6, as well as for marketing launch services through its Arianespace subsidiary. It has appointed CNES as prime contractor for development of ground facilities in French Guiana, which include a new launch pad and alterations to the spaceport.

CNES is also providing oversight support to ESA and conducting combined tests in French Guianawith ArianeGroup, the launcher prime contractor, in addition to its prerogatives under the French Space Operations Act (FSOA).