First flight of European launcher Ariane 6 postponed until 2024

The first flight of Europe’s new medium/heavy launch vehicle, Ariane 6, has been postponed again. Now it will take place in 2024. The head of the European Space Agency, Josef Aschbacher, said this in a comment to Reuters.

Part of the Ariane 6 test, which was scheduled for July 18, 2023, namely a short “hot” launch of the Vulcain 2.1 engine, was not completed and was postponed to August 29, 2023. Although 90% of the test objectives were achieved in July, further tests are scheduled for September.

After this series of tests, we plan to consolidate the launch date for Ariane 6,” ESA CEO Josef Aschbacher told Reuters.

Asked if it was fair to assume that plans for a test launch by the end of 2023 were now out of reach, Aschbacher told Reuters: “Yes, that’s a fair statement.”

Conceptual development of the Ariane 6 launcher to replace Ariane 5 began in 2010. The development of the test model started in 2016. In 2019, the exact date of the first launch was announced – July 16, 2020. For 2021, 2022, 2023 and now for 2024.

And this is actually a big problem for the European Space Agency, because the very reliable Ariane 5, which has been flying since 1996, will make its last flight on July 5, 2023, and will be retired and ESA cannot use the Soviet Russian Soyuz, which used to launch from Kourou, due to sanctions. That leaves the Europeans with the lightweight Vega, which is not suitable for all missions and whose last launch in December 2022 ended in the loss of satellites. By the way, the English-language resources blame the Ukrainian Pivdenne Design Bureau for the mission failure.

As a reminder, we had a big article about one of the latest Ariane 5 missions and a piece dedicated to the spaceports of planet Earth.