Faced with increasing global competition, the continent unexpectedly found itself without the means to independently launch a heavy mission into space due to the delay of the next-generation Ariane 6 and Russia withdrawing the rocket.
The 117th and final flight of the Ariane 5 rocket took place at around 2200 GMT on Wednesday from the airport. European space in Kourou, French Guiana.
The launch was postponed twice. It was originally planned for June 16, but was canceled due to problems with the pyrotechnical cable in the rocket’s booster, which has since been replaced.
Another launch planned for Tuesday was postponed by a day due to bad weather.
The last Ariane 5 spacecraft was a French military communications satellite and a German communications satellite.
Marie-Anne Clair, director of the Guiana Space Center, told AFP that the final flight of the Ariane 5, whose launch had disrupted life in Kourou for almost three decades, was allegedly “emotional” for the team there.
Although it became a reliable rocket, Ariane 5 had a rocky start. Its first flight took place shortly after liftoff in 1996. A single failure. It happened in 2002.
Herve Gilibert, an engineer working on Ariane 5 at the time, said the explosion in 2002 was a “painful experience” that “deeply impressed us”.
But the rocket will launch a successful missile in the end.
Gilibert said the initial setback had “the effect of making us really cautious.
Webb and River
Ariane 5 has earned such a reputation for reliability that NASA is trusting it to launch the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope by the end of 2021.
The last two rocket launches were in April this year, blasting the European Space Agency’s Juice spacecraft on its way to find out if Jupiter’s frigid moons could host alien life.
Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA’s head of space transport, said that in commercial terms, Ariane 5 is “the flagship of European space activities”.
The rocket can carry larger payloads than its predecessor Ariane 4, giving Europe a competitive advantage and helping the continent establish itself in the communications satellite market.
While waiting for Ariane 6, whose first launch was originally scheduled for 2020, Europe has relied on Russia’s Soyuz rocket to carry heavy missions into space.
But Russia has canceled space cooperation with Europe in response to sanctions imposed on it. The invasion of Moscow in February 2022.
The number of launches from Kourou dropped from 15 in 2021 to six last year.
Another setback occurred in December, when the first commercial flight of the Vega C launcher failed. Next failed. Last week, another problem was detected in Vega C’s engine, possibly pushing its return further in the future.
The launcher market is increasingly dominated by US billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which now launches a rocket once a week.
Lacking other options, ESA was forced to turn to rival SpaceX’s Falcon 9 for the successful launch of its Euclid space telescope on Saturday.
ESA will also use SpaceX rockets to deliver satellites for the EarthCARE observation mission.
It is not yet clear how the agency will send the next round of satellites for the global navigation system. Galileo World of the European Union.
At the Paris Air Show earlier this month, ESA chief Josef Aschbacher admitted these were “difficult times”, adding that everyone was “working intensively” to get Ariane 6 and Vega-C ready.
Ariane 6 was unveiled on the launch pad in Kourou earlier this month ahead of the explosive test of the Vulcain 2.1 rocket engine.
Because the new rocket required less manpower and maintenance, 190 out of 1,600 positions were cut at the port of Kourou.
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