The Ariane 6 launch pad at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana now hosts the first example of ESA’s new heavy-lift rocket.

This Ariane 6 combined tests model will be used to validate the entire launch system during its ground phase in readiness for the inaugural launch of Ariane 6.

The combined tests include filling tanks, and draining them in case of launch abort, count-down automated sequence, and cryogenic arms disconnection and retraction at a simulated liftoff.

These tests will be carried out under ESA’s authority by an integrated team from ESA, ArianeGroup and French space agency CNES.

The Ariane 6 combined tests model is highly representative of the flight model. It consists of the core stage and the upper stage, which make up the central core, as well as three pylons shaped like the rocket’s solid boosters and a fully representative but inert mockup of the fourth booster.

The Ariane 6 combined tests model central core was precisely mated in the purpose-built launcher assembly building, where this task is carried out horizontally. Automated guidance vehicles then brought the assembled core to the launch and, working with the crane at the mobile gantry, raised it to its vertical position.

Ariane 6 is a modular launch vehicle using either two or four P120C strap-on boosters, depending on mission requirements. The P120C engine does double duty, also serving as the first stage of ESA’s new Vega-C rocket.

The reignitable Vinci engine which powers the upper stage allows Ariane 6 to deliver multiple payloads to different orbits on a single launch. After payload separation a final engine burn deorbits the upper stage so that it does not become a debris threat in space. 

Ariane 6 development is project-managed and funded by ESA, which also acts as launch system architect. ArianeGroup is design authority and industrial prime contractor for the launcher system and CNES is prime contractor for the Ariane 6 launch base at Europe’s Spaceport. Arianespace is the launch service provider of Ariane 6. 

Credits: ESA – S. Corvaja larger image