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Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket successfully launches for first time

AFP | Paris

The Daily Tribune - www.newsofbahrain.com

Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket successfully blasted off for the first time, releasing satellites into orbit and restoring the continent’s independent access to space.

European space efforts have suffered a series of blows, including four years of delays to Ariane 6, that have robbed the continent of its own way to launch missions into space for the past year.

But with the successful inaugural flight of Europe’s most powerful rocket yet, European space chiefs were keen to move on from recent setbacks.

“It’s a historic day for Europe,” European Space Agency head Josef Aschbacher said.

“Europe is back,” announced Philippe Baptiste, head of France’s CNES space agency.

Surrounded by jungle on the South American coast, the rocket launched from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 4pm local time (1900 GMT).

Initially delayed for an hour by a small problem that was noticed in the morning, the rocket lifted off into clear skies.

‘Not yet complete’

The crew in the Jupiter control room, located 17 kilometres (10 miles) from the launch site, portrayed calm at first.

Then head of operations Raymond Boyce announced “propulsion nominal”, meaning that the launch was going as planned. Applause rang out in the room.

Even louder applause came a little over an hour later when the rocket successfully delivered microsatellites into orbit.

NASA chief Bill Nelson on X welcomed the “giant leap forward” for the ESA.

But Martin Sion, the CEO of the rocket’s manufacturer ArianeGroup, emphasised that “the mission is not yet complete”.

It will only be fully completed when the reusable Vinci engine in the rocket’s upper stage has fallen back into Earth’s atmosphere. This is expected around three hours after liftoff.