Ariane 6 rocket debuts successfully restoring Europe's space independence

Europe's newest and most powerful rocket, Ariane 6, made its inaugural flight on Tuesday, successfully launching satellites into orbit and reestablishing the continent's autonomous access to space. This achievement marks a significant milestone for European space efforts, which have faced setbacks and delays in recent years.

The launch took place at 4 pm local time (1900 GMT) from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, after a brief one-hour delay due to a minor technical issue. Despite clear skies and a smooth liftoff, the mission encountered a slight deviation from its planned trajectory towards the end, affecting the rocket's re-entry and Pacific Ocean landing. However, this did not overshadow the primary objective of satellite deployment.

'Historic day'

European Space Agency (ESA) chief Josef Aschbacher hailed the event as "a historic day for Europe," while Philippe Baptiste, head of France's CNES space agency, declared that "Europe is back" in the space race.

The successful launch carries immense significance for European space sovereignty. Since the retirement of Ariane 5 a year ago, Europe has relied on competitors like SpaceX for satellite launches. Ariane 6, selected by ESA in 2014, is designed to place satellites in various orbits, from geostationary positions to lower Earth orbits for satellite constellations.

This maiden flight carried a payload of university microsatellites, scientific experiments, and two atmospheric re-entry capsules. The mission also included a planned maneuver to de-orbit the upper stage's Vinci engine to mitigate space debris.

Ariane 6 development

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson congratulated ESA on this "giant leap forward" via social media.

Read more on RFI English

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