The central body of the Ariane 6 rocket was for the first time installed on its launch pad in Kourou, a “decisive stepfor the tests prior to the maiden flight scheduled for 2023, Arianegroup and Cnes announced on Tuesday July 12.
Assembled horizontally in a building 800 meters away, the central body -composed of the main floor and the upper floor- rolled “horizontally for about twenty minutes at a speed of 3 km/h to its launch pad thanks to four automated guided vehicles“, detail in a press release the manufacturer of the rocket and the French space agency, responsible for the launch set (ELA 4).
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“A particularly important step”
The central body was then put upright. It must now be connected to the four boosters (auxiliary thrusters) already positioned on the launch pad. These are filled with inert components for testing. The fairing containing the payload must still be affixed to the top of the central body and the liquid oxygen and hydrogen tanks must be filled before the fire tests of the rocket engine, the Vulcain 2.1. This copy of the rocket, dedicated to ground tests, will not fly. “The first meeting between Ariane 6 and its launch pad is a particularly important and symbolic step after these years of parallel development between the factories in Europe and this exceptional project.“, greeted André-Hubert Roussel, president of Arianegroup, quoted in the press release.
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For Cnes President Philippe Baptiste, “everything is in place so that the qualification of Ariane 6 leads to the first flight as soon as possible“. The so-called testscombined» aim to «test all interfaces and good communications between the Ariane 6 launcher and its launch pad“, according to Arianegroup and Cnes. They must also make it possible to test the flight software, that of the control benches, as well as the operations of filling and emptying the tanks. At the same time, a copy of the upper stage of the rocket, whose engine can be reignited, must still be the subject of “fire tests” in Germany. These were originally scheduled for February.
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