Artist’s impression of an Ariane 6 rocket on the pad of the European spaceport. Image is courtesy of ESA.

The new launch complex built for the coming Europe Ariane 6 The rocket has just been inaugurated at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

The Ariane 6 launch complex at the Europe Spaceport in French Guiana. Image is courtesy of ESA.

With this event, ESA celebrates another milestone in the Ariane 6 roadmap as the organization moves forward with combined launcher and launch base testing and preparations for the first launch campaign.

Clearly visible from space, the facilities feature remarkable complex structures above and below ground specifically designed to support Ariane 6 launches over the next decade. It is the pride of the French space agency, CNES, prime contractor for ESA for the development of the launch base and its European industrial partners. Ariane 6 with four boosters Ariane 6 with four boosters.

The Ariane 6 program is funded and developed by ESA. This new launcher will replace the European heavy transport Ariane 5. Available in two versions, with two or four boosters, Ariane 6 will offer more performance and flexibility than its predecessor. This opens up new opportunities and ensures continued access to space for ESA Member States.

The main components include the launch pad with two exhaust ducts, the mobile gantry and the launcher assembly building. Ariane 6 Launch Complex Ariane 6 Launch Complex The launch pad is 28.5 meters deep and 200 meters wide. The basic structure was poured in concrete with the volume of 67 Olympic swimming pools. At its center is the launching table which weighs 700 tons and is 4 meters high, 20 meters long and 18 meters wide. This structure was built in Europe by MT Aerospace in Germany and shipped to Kourou for integration on the launch pad. Underground, it protects a multitude of supports and will support the weight of Ariane 6.

The mobile gantry. Image is courtesy of ESA.

The final integration of Ariane 6 will be done within a mobile gantry, just like Soyuz and Vega. The mobile gantry was manufactured in Europe by Eiffage Metal in Germany and was assembled at the spaceport. The gantry will protect Ariane 6 on the launch table during each launch campaign. Mobile gantry Mobile gantry

This gantry, 90 m high and 50 m wide, weighs 8,200 tonnes, more than a thousand tonnes more than the Eiffel Tower in France. Work platforms will allow engineers to access vehicle levels to vertically position the central core of Ariane 6 directly on the launch table, add two or four boosters depending on the launch configuration and integrate the fairing that houses the payload. The gantry retracts 140 meters on rails before launching. If the launch is delayed, the gantry can be replaced to allow access to Ariane 6 before its next launch attempt.

Model of the heart stage of Ariane 6 in the launcher assembly building Model of the heart stage of Ariane 6 in the launcher assembly building. Image is courtesy of ESA.

The core and upper stages of Ariane 6 will be horizontally integrated inside the launcher assembly building and prepared for deployment in the launch area. The building is 20 meters high, 112 meters long and 41 meters wide, approximately 1 km from the launch area. Horizontal integration reduces the cost of installations and launcher integration while providing a higher level of flexibility and growth potential and allowing easier access to the entire rocket. Overall, Ariane 6’s improved approach to integration and operations will reduce the duration of a launch campaign from months to weeks.

Ariane 6 launches a complex treatment.

ESA’s contract with CNES for the development of the launch base for an amount of 600 million euros was signed in 2015. CNES allocated one third of this funding to infrastructure with significant involvement of the local industry for construction, materials and equipment, and the rest to contracts in continental Europe.

Artistic representation of the two configurations of Ariadne 6.

The systems forming part of the main structures of the launch complex are in the process of being qualified. For example, the deluge system which will protect Ariane 6 and the ground installations from the acoustic energy created during take-off has been tested. The disconnection of Ariane 6’s fluidic systems on the launch pad, tested in France, is now being tested on the launch pad. A mock-up of the central core was used to test ground equipment and practice the maneuvers involved in a launch campaign. Teams from the French space agency (CNES) and ArianeGroup jointly carried out these tests under the responsibility of ESA.

Further combined tests between the launcher and the launch pad are in progress. Complex processing of the Ariane 6 launch Complex processing of the Ariane 6 launch

The Ariane 6 launch complex is a remarkable achievement and an icon of European cooperation and advancement. It is an essential part of a program of intense activity at the European spaceport to prepare for the first flight of ESA’s next generation launcher,” noted Daniel Neuenschwander, director of space transport at ESA.

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