The new European launch vehicle Ariane 6 is scheduled to make its maiden flight three years later than originally planned at the end of next year. There is sufficient progress for this, as the head of the European space agency Esa, Josef Aschbacher, told the German Press Agency in Paris. The start date is now estimated for the last quarter of 2023, "We have confidence (...) that this is a very realistic date," said Aschbacher.
Ariane 6 is the successor to Ariane 5, which has been in service since 1996. It is intended to carry satellites into space for commercial and public clients and is significantly cheaper than its predecessor. Europe's space flight should make them more competitive. The new rocket should also take over launches from the Soyuz launcher. According to Esa, the development costs have so far amounted to almost four billion euros.
The new launch vehicle was originally supposed to start in 2020, but the launch has been postponed several times, partly because of the corona pandemic. "Of course we have now given what I would call a conservative date because we need a certain degree of planning security," Aschbacher told dpa. On the one hand for the development of Ariane 6 and on the other hand to draw up a plan for its use. One feels obliged to move forward as quickly as possible, because ultimately it is about Europe's independent access to space.
According to Aschbacher, however, the missile program still has to reach certain milestones if it is to stick to the target date. The overheating tests of the upper stage on the test bench of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Lampoldshausen, Baden-Württemberg, would have to be completed successfully, the combined tests at the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana and the review of the launch system would have to be started. Rocket maker ArianeGroup announced that a first hot-run test of the complete upper stage was successfully launched earlier this month.