ESA’s new Ariane 6 launch system is being prepared for a round of engine fire tests – with removal of the mobile building that protects the rocket while it sits on the launch pad at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
As seen in this image taken on 22 June 2023, the doors of this mobile gantry have been opened and the structure rolled back on rails. The operation, which takes about half an hour, was a trial run in preparation for a series test firings of the Vulcain 2.1 engine. These test firings will be conducted on the launch pad as part of ongoing preparations for the first-ever flight of Ariane 6.
Removing the gantry for the first time – and then returning it – also helped validate the Ariane 6 ground infrastructure.
The Ariane 6 rocket visible here is not intended for flight. It is being used to check assembly procedures, electrical and fuel connections, telemetry, etc. Flight models, including the rocket that will make Ariane 6’s inaugural flight, are being built in Europe and integrated by prime contractor Ariane Group. After shipping to French Guiana, Ariane 6 core and upper stages are assembled horizontally, before being transferred to the launch pad and lifted upright inside the gantry, where the solid-fuel boosters and payload are attached. The horizontal assembly method cuts the time and cost of a launch campaign, and is a first for an Ariane rocket.
Ariane 6 is an essentially all-new design, to succeed Ariane 5 as the heavy-lift vehicle in Europe’s stable of launch systems. This autonomous capability to reach space is only possible because of the hard work and dedication of thousands of talented people, an entourage that we call ‘Space Team Europe’.