ESA lays out roadmap to Ariane 6 and Vega-C flights

(29 Oct 2020) ESA, CNES and ArianeGroup have jointly established a consolidated reference planning for Ariane 6 development, leading to a launch in Q2 2022. Vega-C's maiden flight is currently planned for June 2021.

With the successful third static fire test of the P120C solid rocket motor on 7 October, all the propulsion elements of the Ariane 6 launcher system have completed their qualification tests.

At Europe's Spaceport, activities for the finalisation of the Ariane 6 launch base are progressing. First integration testing with fullscale 'mock-ups' of the P120C strap-on booster and of Ariane 6's central core took place in the new mobile gantry. Testing of the cryogenic arms that link the launch pad and the launch vehicle are also ongoing at Fos-sur-Mer in France, before shipping to French Guiana.

ArianeGroup is completing the challenging development and qualification of the Ariane 6 Auxiliary Power Unit for the upper stage. This device will allow Europe to offer additional capabilities in satellite deployment for the satellite constellation market.

The first Ariane 6 upper stage has been assembled in Bremen, Germany. Coupling the launcher's tanks with the equipped engine bay of the re-ignitable Vinci engine for the first time. The upper stage is currently undergoing mechanical, fluid and electrical tests, before leaving for further tests at the DLR German Aerospace Center's Lampoldshausen facilities in Germany.

There, the complete stage will be hot fire tested on a new test bench specially developed by DLR for the Ariane 6 upper stage. The Ariane 6 upper stage static fire tests are planned to start in the second quarter of 2021.

In parallel, the first Ariane 6 core stage and the second Ariane 6 upper stage are under preparation. These specimen will be shipped to Europe's Spaceport from Les Mureaux (France) and Bremen (Germany) respectively, for the combined tests campaign.

In the third quarter of 2021, the Ariane 6 launch base will be handed over from CNES to ESA. At this point the Ariane 6 combined tests campaign can start. These series of tests will bring the launch vehicle and launch base together for the first time for integrated tests of multiple systems. This will include a static fire test of Ariane 6 while standing on the launch pad for the first time.

Following the successful combined test campaign and Ground qualification review of the launch system, the first launch campaign, with the integration of the maiden flight hardware, will start. When all these steps are successfully completed Ariane 6 will be in a position to perform its maiden flight in the second quarter of 2022.

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As from October, all the new solid motors for Vega-C have completed qualification testing. The Zefiro-40 solid rocket motor for Vega-C completed qualification tests in 2019. The final test of the P120C took place successfully on 7 October.

Two Vega flights, VV17 and VV18, are planned before Vega-C. Activities for the modification of the mobile gantry for Vega-C, such as modifications of the fluids networks as well as connection and installation of the new control bench for Vega-C, will have to start after VV18 now planned early February.

Vega-C inaugural launch is planned for June 2021.

Reference: ESA PR

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