Ariane 6 completes short-duration engine testing

WASHINGTON — The European Space Agency and ArianeGroup announced a successful hot-fire test of the Ariane 6 core stage, the first of two such tests before ESA is ready to schedule the rocket’s inaugural launch.

The test took place on September 5 on the launch pad at the Kourou Spaceport, French Guiana. The Ariane 6 core stage prototype was fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuels and the Vulcain 2.1 engine ran for four seconds, as planned.

Martin Sion, CEO of ArianeGroup, the main contractor for Ariane 6, said in a statement that the test “is a huge step towards qualifying Ariane 6, because we have significantly validated all the processes needed to run a full launch campaign.”

The hot fire test was previously scheduled for July, but was interrupted before the engine ignition stage was reached. The European Space Agency later said that the automated countdown had been canceled “due to some measurements exceeding pre-established limits,” and was later canceled due to a lack of liquid oxygen.

“We didn’t have enough time to do that and there wasn’t enough oxygen in the tanks, so we decided to stop the timeline and retry the full ignition of Vulcan during the next timeline,” said Karen Leveau, director of space transportation at the French agency. CNES, the space agency, made a July bid during a press conference by the European Space Agency on September 4.

The test was rescheduled to August 29, but was again canceled due to what the European Space Agency said at the time was a “technical issue affecting the control platform” that handles propellant loading and the automated countdown. There is no “obvious technical problem” with the control seat, Leveau said, but engineers need more time to make sure everything is ready for testing.

“The completed hot-fire test of Ariane 6 was essential to reduce the potential for accidents during the final launch sequence and ensure its success. The step-by-step qualification of all operations leading up to launch involves coordinated action,” said Philippe Baptiste, head of the French National Center for Space Studies, in a statement. Accurately by CNES, ArianeGroup and ESA”.

This short-duration test will be followed by a second test scheduled for October 3, which will run the Vulcain 2.1 engine for 470 seconds. This is intended to support the final qualification of the basic aviation stage.

At a press conference on Sept. 4, ESA Director-General Josef Ashbacher said that after completing the long-term test, the agency would be ready to set a target launch period for the first Ariane 6 rocket. But he refused to narrow down the dates. To launch other than to say that if all goes well with the upcoming tests, the launch will take place “not too late” in 2024. The rocket was scheduled to make its first launch in 2020.

“We have an amazing team working on this programme,” Toni Tolker-Nielsen, ESA’s space transportation director, said in an agency statement. “We can all feel it – we are taking the final steps toward ushering in the era of Aryan 6.”

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