How to watch Ariane 6 rocket’s maiden launch on Tuesday

The European Space Agency (ESA) is about to conduct the maiden launch of its new Ariane 6 rocket. The new rocket builds on five decades of Ariane launches, and gives Europe a new spaceflight system for launching any type of satellite around Earth, to the moon, and beyond.

In the words of its operator, Arianespace, the new rocket will provide “new levels of efficiency and flexibility to meet customers’ evolving launch services needs across a full range of commercial and institutional missions.”

Arianespace is building two versions of the 63-meter-tall Ariane 6. Ariane 62 will fly with two strap-on boosters, while the more powerful Ariane 64 will fly with four.

Commenting on the upcoming launch, ESA said: “This is a big moment for Europe, as the rocket will ensure our guaranteed, autonomous access to space — and all of the science, Earth observation, technology development, and commercial possibilities that it entails. With many features brand new to Ariane 6, we’ll be able to carry more and take it further, while sustainably disposing of the launcher’s upper stage to prevent it becoming space debris.”

How to watch

Ariane 6 is scheduled to launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on Tuesday, 9 July, with a four-hour launch window opening from 2 p.m. ET.

The launch will be streamed live on ESAWebTV and the broadcast will begin half an hour before liftoff. You can also watch it via ESA’s YouTube channel, which we’ve embedded at the top of this page.

What to expect

Ariane 6’s maiden flight will comprise three phases, each of which will demonstrate the various abilities of Europe’s newest heavy-lift rocket.

Phase one will include the launch and early stage of the flight, as well as the separation of the rocket’s main stage from the upper stage. It also involves the first boost of the upper stage’s Vinci engine to take it into an elliptical orbit above Earth.

The second phase will put Ariane 6’s newest feature to the test — reignition of the upper stage to change Ariane 6’s orbit from elliptical to a circular orbit. It will then deploy three satellites — OOV-Cube, Curium One and Robusta-3A — and activate of two onboard experiments, YPSat and Peregrinus.

A few seconds later, the second batch of satellites will deploy — 3Cat-4, ISTSat, and GRBBeta. The last two experiments will also be activated, SIDLOC and Parisat. A third separation command will then deploy CURIE and replicator.

The final phase will push the rocket’s cryogenic upper stage to its limit to validate its ability to perform in microgravity conditions. Two reentry capsules will also separate from the upper stage and descend to Earth by surviving a fiery re-entry through the atmosphere.

With the mission complete, the upper stage will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere to avoid becoming another piece of hazardous space junk.

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