First flight of European rocket Ariane 6 scheduled for 9 July

Europe's new heavy-lift launcher, Ariane 6, will be launched into space for the first time on 9 July, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Wednesday. The launch will take place from ESA's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

"Ariane 6 marks the beginning of a new era of autonomous, multi-purpose space flight in Europe," said ESA chief Josef Aschbacher at the Berlin Air Show in Germany. "The launcher will once again give Europe independent access to space."

The launch is important because ESA is currently unable to launch its own satellites. Ariane 6's predecessor, Ariane 5, was retired in July 2023, and Italy's Vega C rocket has been grounded since it failed to launch on its first commercial flight in December 2022.

"The launcher will once again give Europe independent access to space"

The main advantage of the Ariane 6 is that its upper stage can be re-engaged, allowing satellites to be launched into different orbits during the same flight.

The Ariane 6 rocket was approved in 2014 due to growing competition in the commercial launch market, such as from Elon Musk's SpaceX. It was originally scheduled to launch in 2020, but has since suffered several setbacks.

The ESA plans to use Ariane 6 to launch satellites for commercial and public customers until at least the mid-2030s. The first commercial Ariane 6 launch should take place before the end of the year, and there are already orders for 30 flights, according to the ESA.


The Ariane 5 rocket © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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