Europe’s “best answer” to competition from SpaceX slips again, will cost more

Artist's view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters.

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

European space officials announced late last week that the debut of the Ariane 6 rocket will be delayed again—this time until the second quarter of 2022.

This large rocket, which has a roughly comparable lift capacity to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, was originally due to launch before the end of 2020. In May of this year, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Space Agency acknowledged the debut launch would slip into 2021.

Now, during a teleconference with reporters, European officials said they’re targeting the period of April through June 2022 for the first Ariane 6 flight. Again, they cited the global pandemic that has affected both activities at development facilities in Europe and the rocket’s launch site in French Guiana. “We can say today that COVID-19 has led to an extension of activities on the critical path,” said Daniel Neuenschwander, the director of space transportation at the European Space Agency

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