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Watch Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket lift off for the first time

Ariane 6 first liftoff

Arianespace and the European Space Agency (ESA) have successfully completed the maiden launch of the new Ariane 6 heavy-lift rocket.

The two-stage rocket lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana just after 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday. A video (above) shows the rocket climbing skyward with a crowd of onlookers witnessing the historic event.

The aim of the inaugural flight was to demonstrate the capabilities of Ariane 6 in escaping Earth’s gravity and operating in space. Satellites and experiments from various space agencies, companies, research institutes, universities and young professionals were included on this inaugural flight. Just over an hour after liftoff, the first set of satellites were released from the upper stage and placed into an orbit 373 miles (600 kilometers) above Earth.

“A completely new rocket is not launched often, and success is far from guaranteed,” ESA director general Josef Aschbacher said after the mission. “I am privileged to have witnessed this historic moment when Europe’s new generation of the Ariane family lifted off — successfully — effectively reinstating European access to space.”

Aschbacher added: “An inaugural launch is a huge undertaking from thousands of people who have worked relentlessly for years. To see it perform wonderfully at the first attempt is testament to their dedication and a demonstration of European excellence in engineering and technology.”

It was a great relief for those involved to finally see the Ariane 6 make it off the launchpad following years of delays. Work started on the rocket 10 years ago, with 2020 targeted for its maiden launch. But various technical problems, along with other challenges such as the pandemic, caused the date to slip.

The 164-foot-tall (50-meter) Ariane 6 replaces the Ariane 5, which made its final flight in July 2023 following several decades of reliable service. Ariane 6’s first commercial flight will also take place this year, the ESA said.

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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