ESA Selects Payloads for Ariane 6 First Flight

Artist’s view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters (A64) (Credit: ESA – D. Ducros)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA in close collaboration with ArianeGroup and Arianespace has selected payloads which best fit the profile of the first mission of its new generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

This selection follows ESA’s announcement of opportunity in November 2021, which offered a launch to low Earth orbit for experiments up to a total mass of 80 kg and release of payloads with a combined mass of up to 800 kg. They will be hosted on a ‘mass dummy’ featuring a large platform, inside the 14 m long version of the fairing on an Ariane 6 fitted with two strap-on boosters (A62 version).

This demonstration flight will contribute to the qualification of the Ariane 6 launch system as part of the transition from its highly reliable and successful predecessor, Ariane 5. This launch is an important step in the preparation for future institutional missions planned for Ariane 6, such as Galileo.

For this flight, ESA is responsible for operations from the launch campaign to the payload separation, and then disposal of the upper stage through burn-up during reentry.

“I’m glad that ESA can use the very first Ariane 6 flight as a platform for launching these fantastic payloads, some of which will enable European start-ups to validate their systems and provide future commercial services. The Ariane 6 inaugural launch is a key step towards full qualification of the Ariane 6 launch system,” said Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation.

Experiments on board

Four experiments, ranging in mass from 0.15–12 kg, will be fixed to the platform on top of the mass dummy. These experiments will return valuable data up to the end of the mission when the upper stage reenters Earth’s atmosphere.

OrganisationCountryPayloadDescriptionMass
Garef AerospatialFrancePariSatThermal equilibrium of an array to confirm black-body radiation theory≤12
Sint-PieterscollegeBelgiumPeregrinusDual sensor magnetic field≤ 0.5
Libre SpaceGreeceSIDLOCIn-orbit demonstrator Radio Frequency beacon≤ 0.15
ESAESA YPSat – Eye2SkyPhoto and video footage< 3

Ridesharing payloads

ESA has also selected the candidate payloads listed below as part of the baseline for this Ariane 6 flight. Negotiations can now start for the corresponding launch service.

OrganisationCountryPayloadDescriptionMass (kg)
PTSGermanyCuriumOnewith a duplicate ASTRIS Engineering Qualification Model PCB as primary payload≤ 24.5 (AstroFein deployer: 6.5)
TU BerlinGermanyOOV-CubeMicrosatellite – IoT agriculture use case demo≤ 17 (AstroFein deployer: 7)
ESA Education Office /  University of  CatalunyaSpain3Cat41U CubeSat – Techno demo Flexible Microwave Payload1.3
ESA Education Office /  University of LisbonPotugalISTSAT1U CubeSat – Characterisation of aircraft’s ‘cone of silence’ and in-flight performances of a custom-made Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system1.3
SpacemanicSlovakiaGRBBeta1U CubeSat – Gamma Ray Burst detection1.3
ArianeGroupFranceSpaceCase SC-X01Test platform for reentry technologies such as new-generation ablative materials for thermal protection systems≤ 43 (separated: 40)
The Exploration CompanyFrance, GermanyBikini DemoFirst passive, small-scale demonstrator of a reentry capsule≤ 26 (separated: 20)

Deployers

Two deployers will be arranged on board and will accommodate CubeSats. The RAMI deployer is built by Spain’s UARX Space, and the ExoPOD is built by ExoLaunch in Germany.

With some spaces for CubeSats still available, ESA may add to this collection closer to launch.

Ariane 6 is a modular launch vehicle using two or four P120C strap-on boosters to achieve the required performance. The reignitable Vinci engine powers the upper stage which allows Ariane 6 to reach a range of orbits to deliver more payloads on a single launch. The upper stage engine will typically burn one, two or more times to reach the required orbits. After payload separation a final burn deorbits the upper stage to mitigate space debris.

Ariane 6 is a project managed and funded by the European Space Agency. ArianeGroup is design authority and industrial prime contractor for the launcher system. The French space agency CNES is prime contractor for the development of the Ariane 6 launch base at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Arianespace is the launch service provider of Ariane 6.