Watch Europe’s first launch of a next-generation rocket in an ESA animation

The Ariane 5 rocket performed its final mission in June, leaving Europe without a heavy-lift vehicle to carry the spacecraft into orbit.

Its operator, Arianespace, is working on the rocket’s successor, Ariane 6, and last week revealed that the rocket would make its maiden test flight by June 15, 2024.

On Sunday, the France-based aerospace company shared an animation (below) showing what a typical launch looks like, including the various phases of flight as the vehicle heads into orbit.

Arianespace is building two versions of the Ariane 6. The Ariane 62 will fly with two strap-on boosters while the more powerful Ariane 64 will fly with four boosters.

“At more than 60 meters tall, the Ariane 6 will weigh almost 900 tonnes when launched with a full load – roughly the equivalent of one and a half Airbus A380 passenger planes,” Arianespace said in comments accompanying the video.

The rocket’s upper stage engine, called Vinci, is powered by liquid hydrogen and oxygen and can be stopped and restarted multiple times, making it ideal for missions where multiple satellites need to be placed in different orbits.

This would be especially useful in “rideshare” missions that allow multiple companies to join a single flight, thereby offering customers a more cost-effective way to deploy small satellites in space.

After the satellite’s launch, the Ariane 6 upper stage will deorbit and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, ensuring that it does not become hazardous space debris that could threaten the operation of satellites in near-Earth orbit.

The development of Ariane 6 is a mammoth project involving several hundred companies in 13 European countries, led by main contractor ArianeGroup.

The French space agency, CNES, is currently working on the Ariane 6 launch facility at the European Spaceport in French Guiana, the same location where Ariane 5 departed in its final launch five months ago.

In development since 2014, the first flight of the Ariane 6 was supposed to take place in 2020, but a number of delays pushed the date to next year.

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