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ESA still seems shy about sharing news on Ariane 6 rocket testing

A full-size Ariane 6 test version on its launch pad in French Guiana last month.

Enlarge / A full-size Ariane 6 test version on its launch pad in French Guiana last month. (credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique video du CSG/S Martin)

Last month, a full-scale test model of Europe’s Ariane 6 was put to the test on its launch pad in the jungles of French Guiana. For the first time, the launch team at the tropical spaceport loaded cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the Ariane 6 over the course of a marathon 26-hour test campaign.

But it took a week for the European Space Agency, which is funding the 3.8 billion euro ($4.1 billion) development of Ariane 6, to release an update on the test. It turned out the launch team could not accomplish one of the main goals of the countdown rehearsal: A brief four-second ignition of the Ariane 6’s main engine.

An ESA spokesperson described the test on July 18 as “very satisfactory” even though the engine didn’t light. It’s true that the simulated countdown checked off some key objectives. The launch team in French Guiana—consisting of membership from ESA, prime contractor ArianeGroup, and the French space agency CNES—supervised the loading of more than a half-million liters of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the 207-foot-tall (63-meter) Ariane 6.

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