Space Race Continues: ESA's Final Test of Ariane 6 Rocket Motor Completed

Ariane 6 is now one step closer to heading to space.
Fabienne Lang
P120C test flight in French GuianaESA/YouTube

The space race is ongoing, and on Thursday, Europe's space industry just took a leap forward. 

The final test of the ESA's P120c rocket motor, which is due to be strapped onto the Ariane 6 rocket, proved that the motor is ready for use. 

What's even more impressive about this motor is that it can be used in two very different launch vehicles, without having to be changed. This marks a pivotal moment for Europe's space exploration feats. 


New motor

ESA's Ariane 6 heavy-lift rocket may need between two and four P120C motors, depending on their configuration. What's also great about this new motor is that it can also be strapped onto the Vega-C launch vehicle. 

Space Race Continues: ESA's Final Test of Ariane 6 Rocket Motor Completed
The P120C motor being transported to the firing test location in French Guiana. Source: ESA

So, what happened at the recent firing test?

The P120C motor was filled with 142 tons of propellant inside its 44.2-foot-long and 11.15-foot-wide casing before it was moved to a stand dedicated to this type of solid propulsion testing. 

There, once fired up, it burned for 130 seconds, and successfully delivered 4,500 kN of thrust. It was the maximum thrust which is the amount used for regular liftoff, as well as the first phase of flight, per ESA.

The test team encountered no direct issues, and the test was considered a success. However, a full analysis of these tests will be carried out before the motor launches Ariane 6 to space. 

"This firing of the P120C motor paves the way for its use on Ariane 6. It is proof of the hard work and dedication of all the teams involved who have made this test possible despite the COVID-19 crisis. This accomplishes an important milestone towards flight," said Stefano Bianchi, Head of Space Transportation Development at ESA.

This was the third and final firing test of the P120C motor before it is used in 'real life'. 

Take a look at the test below: 

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