ESA: Europe launches Ariane 6 rocket to achieve freedom in space | Science

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The largest rocket ever built in Europe, a gigantic rocket as tall as an 18-story building and weighing more than 500 tons, is set to lift off from the European Space Station in French Guiana this Tuesday. Ariane 6 is a new technological, scientific and geostrategic ingenuity that…

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The largest rocket ever built in Europe, a gigantic rocket as tall as an 18-story building and weighing more than 500 tons, is set to lift off from the European Space Station in French Guiana this Tuesday. Ariane 6 is a new technological, scientific and geostrategic breakthrough, thanks to which European countries hope to have independent access to space, without resorting to other friendly powers or private companies to launch their satellites. If all goes well, the device will launch on Tuesday at 8pm Spanish Peninsular Time. The release window closes after five hours.

“All the tests conducted so far tell us that our baby, Ariane 6, is working perfectly,” said Spaniard Lucia Linares, head of transport strategy at the European Space Agency (ESA), during a press conference. The inaugural flight could be the sweet culmination of a project that has brought years of delays and significant costs to a total budget of nearly 4 billion euros.

Many of the hundreds of engineers who participated in Ariane 6’s development have a terrifying image in their minds. On July 4, 1996, the first Ariane 5 took off on its maiden flight from the same Kauro spacecraft. 37 seconds after liftoff, the giant rocket suddenly veered into midair, destroying a cluster of European satellites. Television images showed a dead silence in the control room, while dozens of people watched in shock on Guyana’s beaches as molten debris fell in all directions toward the forest, leaving long trails of smoke in the sky. were Fireworks The most expensive in the history of Europe, according to a French newspaper headline freedom. It was all caused by a computer program error.

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Several operators are analyzing the payloads of the first Ariane 6, which includes two Spanish satellites, before inserting them into the rocket casing.ESA

Despite the initial mishap, Ariane 5 survived 117 takeoffs until July of last year, almost the oldest service record. Europe now aims to replicate the success with a few twists, including lower production costs and greater sustainability than its predecessors. Although the Ariane 6 is a commercial rocket that can be rented by private companies, its rationale is different, according to Linares. “First we have built this rocket […] To begin European institutional work. “The main reason is that ESA, the EU and its member states have free access to space,” he highlighted.

A controversial race

This approach is not controversial, as the project has received hundreds of millions of additional euros in subsidies. One of the winners of these criticisms is Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX, who has had to resort to ESA in the past to start work on Ariane 6 because it is not yet ready. Musk promises that no reusable rocket like his own has a chance on the market.

However, whatever happens this Tuesday, the first 30 flights of the Ariane 6 and its heavier version, Ariane 64, have already been sold. There are many common tasks among customers, but Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought his new Internet system from space to orbit, says Arianespace Vice President Caroline Arnoux for flights on a new European rocket.

The objective of the inaugural flight was to reach an orbit at an altitude of 580 km above the Earth. With a 62-degree tilt, an unusual but necessary one, he explained, the artifact would be visible at all times from observatories spanning four continents. Michael Bonnet, head of Ariane 6 at ESA. The device carries a number of satellites and capsules that will be released once they reach final orbit, including two small devices developed in Spain, one of them by students at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.

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“We have the first phase, which we call commercial flight, and we’ll start with that Cubes [satélites pequeños]”Bonnet explained. “Then we will continue with a demonstration segment where we will verify the behavior of the upper stage,” he added. There are two atmospheric re-entry capsules on board that will fall into the Pacific Ocean and will not be recovered because of how expensive it would be. Near the Inaccessible Pole or Nemo Point, the beach falls away from anything.

Ariane 6 is non-reusable, but its upper stage has the ability to fire its thrusters multiple times for the first time. This would allow satellite constellations to remain in space, then re-enter the atmosphere and fall back to Earth, thus not contributing to the proliferation of space debris orbiting the planet.

ESA wants to drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by building a hydrogen electrolysis production plant at its Kourou space station that will fuel future rockets. In its current configuration, the Ariane 62 has two solid fuel boosters that are released two minutes after liftoff. There is a powerful future version Ariane 64 with four engines. Then there is the main and upper stage which store liquid oxygen and hydrogen at 180 and 250 degrees below zero respectively. The last part of the rocket will undergo several test firings and shutdowns during this Tuesday’s flight, with a total duration of nearly three hours.

If all goes well, ESA hopes to launch another Ariane in December this year and increase the number of launches until it reaches ten per year. 13 countries, including Spain, are participating in its construction. France leads with 55.6% of the total; Spain accounts for 4.7%.

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The main drawback of this large European rocket is that it is only qualified for satellites and robotic space exploration missions. In theory, it could be modified to carry astronauts to the International Space Station because it has enough power, but first it would have to pass all the qualification tests, but this orbiting lab would not be justified. It will end its life and be buried in the sea. Europe’s biggest disadvantage is its inability to send astronauts into space, especially to the Moon and beyond, and it continues to depend on its allies. Until the outbreak of the Ukrainian war, in February 2022, Europeans went into space on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which was designed in the 1960s and is still very reliable today. After sanctions and a break with Russia, the only current option is to travel with the Americans or a private company: Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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