Thursday, July 6, 2023

Despite the European rocket crisis, an Ariane 5 rocket launches


PARIS: Wednesday marked the final launch of Europe's most reliable rocket, the Ariane 5, which came at a difficult time for European space efforts after 27 years of service.

Due to delays in the next-generation Ariane 6 and Russia's withdrawal of its rockets, the continent has unexpectedly found itself without a means of independently launching heavy missions into space in the face of rising global competition.

From Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, the 117th and final Ariane 5 rocket flight took place on Wednesday around 2200 GMT.

The send off had been delayed two times. It was originally scheduled for June 16, but it was postponed due to issues with the rocket's booster's pyrotechnic lines, which have since been replaced.

Bad weather caused another Tuesday launch to be postponed by a day.

A French military communications satellite and a German communications satellite make up the Ariane 5's final payload.

The Guiana Space Centre's director, Marie-Anne Clair, told AFP that the teams in Kourou felt "charged with emotion" during the final flight of an Ariane 5, whose launches have punctuated life there for nearly three decades.

Ariane 5, even though it would become a reliable rocket, had a rough start. In 1996, its first flight crashed shortly after takeoff. In 2002, it was its only other such failure.

Herve Gilibert, a specialist who was dealing with Ariane 5 at that point, said the 2002 blast was a "horrible experience" that "had a profound impact on us".

However, the rocket would begin a lengthy sequence of successful launches.

Gilibert stated that the initial stumbles "the positive effect of keeping us absolutely vigilant."

NASA trusted Ariane 5 to launch the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope in late 2021 because of its reputation for dependability.

The rocket's second-last send off was in April this year, impacting the European Space Organization's Juice space apparatus while heading to see if Jupiter's frosty moons can have outsider life.

According to the ESA's head of space transportation, Daniel Neuenschwander, Ariane 5 had been "the spearhead of Europe's space activities" from a commercial standpoint.

The rocket had the option to convey a far greater burden than its ancestor Ariane 4, giving Europe an upper hand and permitting the mainland to set up a good foundation for itself in the correspondence satellite market.

Europe had been relying on Russia's Soyuz rockets to launch heavy-load missions into space while it waited for Ariane 6, whose initial launch was scheduled for 2020.

However, in response to sanctions imposed for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia ended its space cooperation with Europe.

Six launches were launched from Kourou last year, down from 15 in 2021.

The failure of the first commercial flight of the next-generation Vega C light launcher in December was yet another setback. Last week, one more issue was identified in the Vega C's motor, reasonable driving its return further into what's in store.

SpaceX, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, is increasingly dominating the launcher market with its weekly rocket launches.

The ESA had no choice but to use SpaceX's Falcon 9 to launch its Euclid space telescope on Saturday, which went off without a hitch.

The ESA will likewise utilize a SpaceX rocket to send off satellites for the EarthCARE perception mission.

The method by which the agency will launch the subsequent batch of satellites for the Galileo global navigation system of the European Union is still unknown.

At the Paris Aviation expo recently, ESA boss Josef Aschbacher recognized that these were "troublesome times," adding that everybody was "working with a burning intensity" to get Ariane 6 and Vega-C prepared.

This month, Ariane 6 was unveiled on a Kourou launch pad prior to an ignition test of its Vulcain 2.1 rocket engine.

At the Kourou spaceport, 190 of 1,600 positions are being eliminated as a result of the new rocket's lower staffing and maintenance requirements.

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