Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Ariane 6 First Flight "Nominal"

Today's lift off from Guiana. Image credit: ESA with some contrast enhancement by me

The first headline I saw said the mission was flawless but as time went by, that was revised to say, “Ariane 6 reaches orbit with long-awaited first flight.” In fact, the story that link takes you to has URL that says, "performs-flawlessly-on-long-awaited-first-flight" and the title has been changed on the article it links to. 

The Ariane 6 rocket lifted off from the Kourou launch site in French Guiana at 3:01 p.m. Eastern (1901 UTC) July 9. Launch followed a short delay due to a data acquisition system issue.
The first separation command, seeing the deployment of the OOV-Cube, Curium One and Robusta-3A, took place one hour five minutes into flight with the Ariane 6 upper stage in a circular, 577-kilometer-altitude orbit. Experiments YPSat and Peregrinus, attached to the upper stage, were also initiated.
Three further separations were due to follow at time of first reporting. The European Space Agency official stream later reported an issue with the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) which allows the upper stage Vinci engine to reignite*.

The issue is only expected to affect the end of the mission, according to ESA. A first passivation maneuver of the upper stage was planned for two hours 40 minutes into the flight. The agency announced a press conference to follow at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. The final release was intended to see capsules reenter the atmosphere and fall into the Pacific Ocean as part of the deorbit maneuver.

Despite the snag/SNAFU with the APU, the ESA seems pretty happy with the mission, coming as it does years later than originally planned. Its debut was originally envisioned to take place in 2020, the slippage was due to both factors under their control and others (COVID-19). The important part is that it's flying now, and with some more work on the APU, it may be ready to start getting Europe back into space. Arianespace already has a log of 30 launches on backorder. 

“This is just the first step,” Josef Aschbacher, director general of ESA, said on X ahead of launch. “We have lots of work to do yet, but we are laser-focused on changing the future of the European space transportation ecosystem.”


  1. Interesting that Ariane 6 work started around 2011-12, and New Glenn also started around the same time.

    Scary that a private company is slower than the French and the ESA.

  2. FYI
    Tomorrow, Wednesday, at 1100 EDT, NASA will live stream conference with Stayliner on various social media, including NASA TV.

  3. Tripped and fell at the end, but they'll get it worked out!
    Good work, Arienespace!