Feb 12, 2024
The stages that make up the central core of Europe’s new rocket, Ariane 6, have left mainland Europe and are heading towards Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana. Shipping across the Atlantic, the main stage and upper stage were loaded into the purpose-built hybrid sailing ship Canopée at the harbours of Bremen, Germany, and Le Havre, France.
Canopée left the port of Le Havre carrying the last elements that will form the first Ariane 6 rocket to soar into space. Canopée is scheduled to arrive at the port of Pariacabo in Kourou, French Guiana, by the end of February. From there, the two stages will be transported by truck the last few kilometres to Europe’s Spaceport.
Stages to launch
The main stage was constructed in Les Mureaux, France, at ArianeGroup’s assembly hall. On launch day later this year, the main stage for Ariane 6 will fire its Vulcain 2.1 engine and provide steering for eight minutes on the rocket’s ascent into space.
The upper stage, also designed and built by ArianeGroup, was assembled in Bremen. The fuel tanks, Vinci engine and unique Auxiliary Power Unit provide fuel pressure, electricity and propulsion to fire multiple times on each Ariane 6 flight.
The two stages that are now en route to French Guiana form Ariane 6’s central core. They will be connected horizontally at Europe’s Spaceport before being transported a few kilometres to the launch area and lifted upright.
Once upright, two boosters will be added for Ariane 6’s first flight; they are already in French Guiana. Lastly, the upper composite fairing – a nosecone that splits vertically in two – and the payloads will be attached on the launch pad.
Making way for launch
Meanwhile teams ESA, ArianeGroup and France’s space agency CNES have started removing the Ariane 6 test model that currently stands on the launch pad. The same procedure as described above will be followed but in reverse order. The dummy payloads inside the fairing of the test model will return to the Encapsulation Hall that is part of the Bâtiment d'Assemblage Final. Then the test model will be further disassembled by removing the boosters and returning the central core to the Launcher Assembly Building.
Ariane 6 is an all-new design, created to succeed Ariane 5 as Europe's heavy-lift launch system. With Ariane 6's upper stage restart capability, Europe's launch capability will be tailored to the needs of multiple payload missions, for example to orbit satellite constellations. This autonomous capability to reach Earth orbit and deep space supports Europe's navigation, Earth observation, scientific and security programmes. Ongoing development of Europe's space transportation capabilities is made possible by the sustained dedication of thousands of talented people working in ESA's 22 Member States.