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Esa sets July launch date for new European rocket

Image: European Space Agency

Launch of Ariane 6 will “re-establish Europe’s independent access to space”, says agency director

The European Space Agency has set a 9 July target date for the launch of the new Ariane 6 rocket, which is bearing many of Europe’s hopes for restoring its ability to independently launch satellites and other craft into space.

Europe’s ability to launch craft has been severely curtailed in recent years, as a result of delays to Ariane 6 and technical faults with the Vega-C launcher. Its access to Russian launchers has also been lost due to that country’s invasion of Ukraine, resulting in a reliance on patchy access to US launchers.

Esa’s director-general, Josef Aschbacher, announced the launch date at the Berlin Air Show on 5 June, saying: “Ariane 6 marks a new era of autonomous, versatile European space travel…as it launches, it will re-establish Europe’s independent access to space.”

Also present at the announcement was Martin Sion, chief executive of the Ariane 6 prime contractor, ArianeGroup. He said: “The announcement of the scheduled date for Ariane 6’s first flight puts us on the home stretch of the launch campaign, and we are fully engaged in completing the very last steps.”

After the first flight, the company Arianespace will take on provision of launch services using Ariane 6. Its chief executive, Stéphane Israël, said the company already has 30 missions for the new rocket on its order book. A second flight is due by the end of the year, eventually ramping up to about 10 flights per year, he said.

The last milestone before the launch is the ‘wet’ dress rehearsal, in which all steps of the launch are simulated.