The first Ariane 6 was released on July 9

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The European Space Agency and its partners have announced a July 9 launch date for the first Ariane 6 rocket.

ESA announced the launch date at the ILA Berlin Air Show on June 5, after announcing last month that the launch would take place in the first two weeks of July. ESA did not release a specific release time or window for that day’s release.

„The announcement of the planned date for Ariane 6’s first flight brings us to the home stretch of the launch campaign, and we are fully engaged in completing the last steps,” said Martin Sion, chief executive of ArianeGroup, the prime contractor for the rocket. said in a statement.

Those last steps include a burn test and a training countdown called a wet dress rehearsal (WDR). ESA said last month that the WDR would take place on June 18 and did not update that schedule in the launch date announcement.

The initial Ariane 5 launch was primarily a demonstration flight. It carries eight CubeSats of companies and organizations and five payloads attached to the upper stage of the rocket. It will deploy two reentry capsules, one built by Ariane Group and the other by The Exploration Company, a European startup that recently won an ESA award to launch a commercial cargo spacecraft.

The most important part of the launch is the rocket itself. Ariane 6, years behind schedule, is critical to Europe’s efforts to end a „launcher crisis” that has temporarily deprived it of free access to space. That crisis was caused by delays in Ariane 6 and the retirement of Ariane 5, as well as the loss of a Soyuz rocket after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and the failure of a Vega C launch in late 2022.

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„Ariane 6 marks a new era of autonomous, versatile European spaceflight,” ESA Director General Joseph Aschbacher said in a statement. „This powerful rocket is the culmination of years of dedication and ingenuity by thousands across Europe and, when it launches, will re-establish Europe’s independent access to space.”

In a May 28 interview, Aschbacher said a merits review found several unspecified problems with the launch system that should be closed before launch. „There’s no such thing as a showstopper,” he said, adding that he’s not worried about creating a two-week window to start in July.

If the initial launch is successful, a second launch could take place before the end of the year, Arianespace Chief Executive Stephen Israel said in a statement, adding, „We will continue to launch about 10 launches a year once we reach cruise speed. .” In contrast, SpaceX performed 14 launches of its Falcon 9 rocket in May 2024 alone.

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