• The Ariane 6 upper stage has completed another hot-fire test, representative of the inaugural flight, at the German Aerospace Center site in Lampoldshausen.
  • The upper stage’s overall operation was tested, with a view to its qualification for the first launch, along with all the subsystems, including the Vinci re-ignitable engine and the Auxiliary Power Unit .
  • A last hot-fire test is scheduled before final qualification of the Ariane 6 upper stage, with the aim of testing its operation for different types of missions, as well as in degraded conditions.
  • The combined tests between the launcher and the launch pad are taking place in parallel at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

On September 1 2023, teams from ArianeGroup, the German Aerospace Center  and the European Space Agency successfully completed another hot-fire test on the test bench dedicated to the upper stage of the new Ariane 6 launcher, in Lampoldshausen .

The upper stage test sequence was representative of its operating phase during Ariane 6’s inaugural flight. It involved more than 11 minutes (680 seconds) of operation of the Vinci re-ignitable motor in two boosts, including two boosts of the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) in parallel with the operation of the Vinci engine, as well as propellant pressure and temperature control in the tanks during non propulsive phase. The Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) was in operation for a cumulative period of nearly 30 minutes.

The complete test results are currently being analyzed and should lead to the Ariane 6 upper stage being declared “flight-ready”.

This success for the Ariane 6 teams brings us closer to the final qualification of the upper stage. This crucial test has demonstrated the perfect simultaneous operation of the Vinci re-ignitable engine and the APU, which are two key technologies for the versatility of our new European launcher, allowing it to complete highly diverse missions,” explained Martin Sion, CEO of ArianeGroup. I would like to commend the excellent cooperation between our French-German teams and our partners from DLR, who – with the team of our client ESA -, have once again demonstrated their determination to move Ariane 6 towards its inaugural flight, while securing the quality and dependability of Europe’s new launcher.

 “I am very happy about the successful test and I congratulate the teams from ArianeGroup, ESA and DLR on this successful cooperation. This test is a key milestone and an essential step in the qualification of the upper stage for its first flight,” explained Walther Pelzer, Member of the DLR Executive Board and Director General of the German Space Agency at DLR. “DLR is renowned worldwide for its unique test infrastructure and is setting new standards in Europe with the P5.2 test stand. During the ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level held in Paris in November 2022, the Member States agreed that Lampoldshausen is part of the strategic ESA infrastructure as a site for engine and stage tests,”

ESA Director of Space Transportation Toni Tolker-Nielsen thanked partners at DLR and Ariane 6 prime contractor ArianeGroup, who are running the tests at Lampoldshausen: “Ariane 6 represents a dramatic increase in our launch capability, and the upper stage with its re-ignitiable Vinci engine will be transformative. The results from these tests gives us great confidence in the flexibility of this launch system to satisfy all mission requirements. Together with our partners we are making significant progress, and I look forward to the next stages of our Ariane 6 journey.

Assembled at ArianeGroup’s site in Bremen, Germany, the Ariane 6 upper stage incorporates some of the launcher’s main innovations, enabling it to carry out the widest possible range of launch missions, including complex ones such as large-scale deployment of satellite constellations in low Earth orbit (LEO), or successive injection of payloads into different orbital planes. The stage includes two main tanks for cryogenic propellants (liquid hydrogen and oxygen) to power the Vinci engine which can be re-ignited up to four times, and the innovative Auxiliary Power Unit.

At the same time as the upper stage tests taking place in Germany, the combined tests of the whole launch system including the first Ariane 6 launcher ever built (known as CTM – Combined Test Model) and the new launch base are continuing in Kourou. This test launcher also incorporates an upper stage, used notably for the launcher electrical and fluids tests, including the cryogenic propellant filling and draining sequences and the operation of the cryo-arms in fully representative conditions together with the launch base.

The Ariane 6 program is managed and funded by ESA. As industrial lead contractor and design authority for the launcher, ArianeGroup is responsible for its development and production with its industrial partners, as well as for its marketing through its Arianespace subsidiary. CNES and its contractual partners are responsible for the construction of the launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana.