While we were celebrating Thanksgiving day here in the states, the European Space Agency's launch facility in Kourou, French Guiana hosted a critical test for the Ariane 6 rocket, which has been on the ropes with a series of delays. The test was a full duration static firing of the first stage, seven minutes, keeping it on track for a first flight in 2024.
"This milestone rehearsal comes after years of designing, planning, preparing, building and hard work from some of the finest space engineers in Europe," Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), said in a statement. "We are back on track towards rescuing Europe’s autonomous access to space. Well done to all involved!"
A test article of Europe's new Ariane 6 rocket conducts a hot-fire test with its core-stage engine on Nov. 23, 2023. ESA image credit.
Of course, the Ariane 6 is Europe's next-generation heavy-lift rocket, to replace the Ariane 5 that has been retired. The rocket consists of a core stage, powered by a single Vulcain 2.1, as well as an upper stage that sports a smaller Vinci engine, which is being scheduled to undergo a test firing next month at the Lampoldshausen test center, part of Germany's space agency. In addition to the Vulcain 2.1 core engine, the Ariane 6 is also outfitted with either two or four solid rocket boosters, to increase its thrust at liftoff.