The future European heavy launcher will not take off before the second quarter of 2022. The delay is blamed on the health crisis, which is expected to cost member states an additional 230 million euros.
Second shift in four months
The inaugural launch of Ariane 6 had slipped this summer from the end of this year to the second half of next year.
It has now been postponed to the second quarter of 2022, following the meeting of the Council of European Space Agency member states on 28 and 29 October to assess the delays and additional costs caused by the health crisis in advancing the development of the future European heavy launcher.
For its part, the small Vega C launcher is due to make its first flight in June 2021.
Persistent technical problems
Although the qualification tests of the various Ariane 6 engines are considered to have been completed since October 15 and a first stage was assembled a week later at ArianeGroup in Bremen, Germany, the next stage of the operations seems difficult to carry out at full speed with the pandemic taking hold over the long term.
At the Guyana Space Centre, health measures are slowing down the construction of the dedicated launch pad, while several technical problems have appeared in the development of the new cryogenic refuelling arms that equip the launch table, and which are currently being tested at Fos-sur-Mer (Bouches-du-Rhône).
Faced with this new postponement, ESA is going to demand an additional 230 million euros from its member states.