What should we expect from Ariane 6’s launch tomorrow evening?

What should we expect from Ariane 6’s launch tomorrow evening?

Ariane 6 is not a rocket like the others, and the stakes surrounding it are immense. It is not just a question of reaching orbit, the objective is to give back to a continent its space sovereignty. A failure during this first mission would bring Europe to its knees as it has done throughout its history.

To understand all the issues behind this flight of July 9, we must go back to the history of Ariane rockets. Developed in the 70s by the CNES, the National Center for Space Studies, the first Ariane rocket took off in 1979 from Kourou. The announced objective is to give France spatial sovereignty facing the two blocs of the time, the USSR and the United States.

Ariane rockets will reach their peak in the 2000s. With the launch of the fifth generation, Ariane becomes a world reference. NASA also chooses Ariane 5 to launch its James Webb space telescope, the “replacement” for Hubble.

It is therefore with this loaded past that Ariane 6 arrives on the Kourou launch pad. The rocket must take over from an older one that is now retired, but whose letters of nobility are recognized by all. Ariane 6 cannot be an average rocket, it must be as exceptional as its big sister.

Hurry up

The ArianeGroup teams have a completely different pressure, imposed by the schedule. Indeed, Ariane 5 has not flown for over a year, time is running out for European space. It must urgently regain space independence. It is out of the question for European military and strategic agencies to entrust their satellites to the United States, the old continent must be able to reach orbit by itself.

This flight on July 9 will therefore be the confirmation of the beginning of a new era for European space. At least, that’s what everyone hopes for on the Kourou side. But many doubts still hover over the rocket. It took so long to present itself upright on the launch pad.

Lots of worries

Recently, Joseph Aschbacher, the president of the European Space Agency (ESA) acknowledged that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.» Ariane 6 has been plagued with setbacks. The development project for this first model was considerably slowed down by the Covid-19 crisis, before encountering other major challenges.

The explosion in the price of raw materials, as well as the war in Ukraine, were further setbacks for the Ariane 6 project. Finally, the rocket arrived on the launch pad this summer, more than four years late.

All these concerns could nevertheless be swept away on July 9 with a nominal flight. All the criticisms received by Ariane 6 could disappear, as if by magic, after a successful first flight. Now all that remains is to send this rocket into space. The announced flight slot is still on the evening of July 9, around 9 p.m. French time.

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