Europe’s new rocket blasts off successfully

  • The European Space Agency celebrated the successful launch of the all new Ariane 6 on Tuesday.
  • The rocket launched successfully and even delivered a few satellites to space.
  • Arianespace hopes to begin commercial launches later this year.

On Tuesday evening, the European Space Agency (ESA), CNES, ArianeGroup and Arianespace watched as a decade long investment lifted off toward the heavens.

The Ariane 6 launch from the European Spaceport in French Guiana went rather well demonstrating the ability to punch through Earth’s atmosphere and reach low Earth orbit.

“A completely new rocket is not launched often, and success is far from guaranteed. I am privileged to have witnessed this historic moment when Europe’s new generation of the Ariane family lifted off – successfully – effectively reinstating European access to space,” Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the ESA said in a statement.

Surprisingly, the ESA elected to have a few satellites on board Ariane 6. These satellites comes from various space agencies, research institutes, universities and more. The launch also allowed the ESA to test the launch pad which was custom built by French space agency CNES and allows for Ariane rockets to be launched more rapidly.

Unlike SpaceX’s Starship and Falcon rockets, the Ariane 6 isn’t reusable. Once the rocket has completed its missions it enters the atmosphere and burns up. This means there is less risk of debris hitting other orbital satellites.

The contractor behind the rocket, Arianespace, plans to launch the Ariane 6 again later this year and that flight will be commercial in nature. And why not, given that this first launch was such a success it makes little sense to continue waiting around what with a functional rocket available.

“The new launcher’s order book is proof of the versatility of Ariane 6 and of its capacity to accomplish a wide range of missions into multiple orbits. It reflects the confidence that customers have in Ariane 6 for both their institutional and commercial missions. We are eager to begin operating our new launcher,” Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, said in a statement.

One of the features of this new rocket is an ability to use it to launch missions from low-Earth orbit, allowing for missions that reach deeper into space. Given that it has taken some spacecraft literal decades to get close to the edge of our solar system, this is an exciting prospect for exploration not only beyond the Milky Way, but within it as well.

[Image – ESA – S. Corvaja]


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