The Ariane 6 Launcher Task Force (TF) consists of top management of ESA, launch base prime contractor CNES, launcher system prime contractor ArianeGroup and launch service provider Arianespace. This regular update will follow Task Force meetings, to report on the progress being made towards inaugural flight of the new Ariane 6 launcher.
The next update is expected on or soon after 8 June
Key milestones towards inaugural flight:
Starting May 2023: Flight software qualification tests - Software tests in anticipation of the inaugural flight mission, in nominal and degraded conditions.=
Starting May 2023: Ground combined tests sequence, at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana - This test sequence notably includes two wet rehearsals and a long firing test of the lower stage on the launch pad. The successful achievement of this sequence is a main prerequisite for the inaugural flight.
Completion of outstanding qualification reviews of the different products and sub-systems.
Starting late-June 2023: Overall launch system qualification review - Unified qualification review of the launcher, launch system and launch base.
Early July 2023: Upper stage additional test at DLR Lampoldshausen, Germany - This test on the P5.2 test bench will simulate a nominal flight profile like the one planned for the inaugural flight, to confirm the expected behaviour of the upper stage. A further test is planned to examine stage behaviour in degraded cases.
Starting November 2023: Launch vehicle assembly and beginning of the inaugural flight launch campaign - Following sea transportation of lower and upper stages from France and Germany to French Guiana, this process will include in a full-fledged flight configuration a final dress rehearsal.
January 2023: Upper-stage hot firing test was successfully performed on the DLR’s P5.2 test bench at Lampoldshausen. First the Vinci engine was operated for the planned duration, then the Auxiliary Power Unit was fired twice, as expected. The APU is a liquid oxygen/hydrogen engine used to provide small thrust for propellant settlement, velocity increment for end of life manoeuvre and tank pressurisation. Analysis confirmed very good behaviour of this module.
Ongoing: The Combined Test specimen of the rocket is a functional model in an Ariane 64 configuration. It is assembled on the launch pad at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, and used for the combined tests. Electrical interfaces have been connected and functional checks have been performed, using the control bench that is part of the launch pad.
Ongoing: In Europe, the assembly of the elements of the first Flight Model (FM1, the launcher for the inaugural flight) is well advanced. Modules integration is progressing in ArianeGroup’s factories in Les Mureaux and Bremen. In French Guiana, the two P120C solid rocket motors have been casted (FM1 is an Ariane 62 configuration).
December 2022 - April 2023: The launch base technical qualification review was started in December. The first part (excluding the control bench) concluded in April. The review did not raise major concerns on the qualification. The control bench qualification will be achieved within June 2023.