Replay of the Ariane 6 Hot-Fire Test

On 23 November 2023, Ariane 6, the next-generation European launch vehicle, underwent a significant milestone in its preparation for its inaugural flight. The rocket carried out a full-scale rehearsal, which included complex fuelling, a launch countdown, and the ignition of its core stage Vulcain 2.1 engine. This rehearsal aimed to simulate the entire core stage flight phase, providing valuable insights into the rocket’s performance and readiness for space missions.

The rehearsal did not involve igniting the boosters; instead, the Ariane 6 test model remained firmly grounded at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. However, the core stage operations were executed with utmost precision, allowing engineers and scientists to gather crucial data for analysis. This full-stack run marked the longest duration test for the rocket’s liquid propulsion module equipped with a Vulcain 2.1 engine.

The Vulcain 2.1 engine, which powered the core stage, consumed approximately 150 tonnes of propellant during this rehearsal. The propellant consisted of a mixture of supercooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, cooled to temperatures below -250°C. This extreme cold is necessary to ensure optimal performance and efficiency during the engine burn.

Despite a minor anomaly that briefly disrupted the automated sequence, resulting in a suspenseful pause before the countdown reset, the Vulcain 2.1 engine successfully ignited and operated for over seven minutes. The engine’s roaring sound filled the spaceport as it faithfully replicated the conditions that would occur during an actual launch into space.

Throughout the test, thousands of monitors positioned around the launchpad captured vast amounts of data. Engineers and scientists will meticulously analyze this data to gain a comprehensive understanding of Ariane 6’s performance during various phases of the core stage flight. These insights will be invaluable for fine-tuning and improving the rocket’s design, ensuring its reliability and safety for future missions.

The successful completion of this full-scale rehearsal brings Ariane 6 one step closer to its maiden flight. The data obtained from this test will serve as a vital foundation for the rocket’s next and first real flight. With each milestone achieved, Europe’s space agency remains committed to advancing space exploration and solidifying its position as a major player in the global aerospace industry.

As the world eagerly awaits the launch of Ariane 6, the European space community can celebrate this significant achievement. The successful rehearsal not only demonstrates the engineering prowess behind the rocket but also highlights the collaborative efforts of scientists, engineers, and technicians who have dedicated their expertise to realizing Europe’s ambitions in space.