On October 24, according to ESA, CNES, and ArianeGroup, a full Ariane 6 wet rehearsal test was completed. The 30-hour combined test loading (CTLO2.1), was conducted at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Nighttime rehearsal for Ariane 6 towards first flight 🚀— ESA Space Transport (@ESA_transport) October 25, 2023
Yesterday, a team of @CNES, @ESA, @Arianespace and @ArianeGroup personnel at @EuropeSpacePort in Kourou, French Guiana, completed a full-scale wet rehearsal of the new #Ariane 6 rocket that was fuelled and then drained of… pic.twitter.com/KbvQFvtstj
Three teams switched shifts of 10 hours each, testing all launch and emergency procedures with an interruption of the countdown from simulated anomalies. This is the third Ariane 6 full launch countdown, following the hot fire test on Sept. 5 and a first rehearsal test on July 18.
“As these operations are so delicate, and Ariane 6 is an all-new launch system, the more rehearsals we can do, the better, because we need to explore the robustness of the systems. Through simulations of off-nominal situations, the CTLO 2.1 has given the operational teams more confidence in launch countdowns and more test data for analysis and smooth operations to liftoff.”— Pier Domenico Resta, ESA’s Ariane 6 launch system and engineering manager
Firstly, a long-duration hot fire test of Ariane 6’s core stage was planned before the CTLO2.1 on Oct. 3. However, On Sept. 5, after the successful ignition of the Vulcan 2.1 engine, an anomaly was detected on the rocket’s Thrust Vector Control system.
As stated on Sept. 21, by the Ariane 6 task force, the issue was related to the TVC’s hydraulic group. An internal technical investigation has been opened to understand the causes of the anomaly and implement the necessary changes. The supplier of the hydraulic group, the Belgian company SABCA is already working on it.
To try to avoid further delays, which have already been numerous in the program, ESA has decided to invert the scheduled tests, pending the results of the investigation.
After ESA’s 317th council, held on Oct. 19, Josef Aschbacher announced that the long-duration hot fire test was postponed to the end of November. In December the upper stage will be fired again in Lampoldshausen, Germany. This test will be the last one of 2023 before the maiden launch scheduled for the first half of 2024.
Icarus, the future upper stage
On Oct. 24, ESA also announced that the testing campaign of the future Phoebus rocket tank will soon start. Phoebus is a project that aims at demonstrating the use of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic materials, to be used in the future Ariane 6’s highly-optimised Icarus upper stage.
A 2 m-diameter tank will be tested in flight conditions to prove the structural strength. Firstly the tank will be filled with nitrogen, then helium and, finally with oxygen. If everything goes as planned, next year a hydrogen tank will be tested. The test phase of a full-scale upper stage demonstrator is expected to begin in 2025.