The first combined tests of the Ariane 6 at Latesys in Fos-sur-Mer, France, have simulated the moment of take-off when the umbilicals separate from the launch vehicle.
These tests are part of the critical path to the first flight of Europe’s new Ariane 6 launch vehicle. They validate the interfaces and mechanical behavior during the separation of this complex cryogenic connection system. More extensive combined tests will be carried out at the European spaceport of Kourou, French Guiana, which will include fluid supplies.
The cryogenic connection system holds the launch vehicle on the launch pad during the countdown to launch.
Umbilicals supported by ‘cryogenic arms’ on the main mast supply make-up fuel to the Ariane 6, maintain the correct pressurization of the Ariane 6 tanks, cool the engines prior to firing, and generally keep the launch vehicle in optimal condition until take-off point. The same umbilicals allow fuel to be safely drained if a launch is aborted.
“At the time of takeoff, it is essential that the connections between the launch vehicle and the launch base are disconnected and removed quickly and safely,” explained Luis Escudero, director of the launch preparation program for the main future of the THAT.
“The pyrotechnic actuators detonate to break the hinges and allow the umbilicals to safely separate from the Ariane 6. The cryo-support arms that support the upper umbilicals move horizontally away from the launch vehicle. A 50-ton counterweight inside the mast, as heavy as a humpback whale: speed up this maneuver.
At the same time, the steel doors slam shut on the mini masts at the base of the Ariane 6 on the launch pad to protect the connectors from the rocket exhaust.
“All of this happens in a fraction of a second in a highly accurate synchronized sequence.”
The launch pad design has been improved for Ariane 6. The disconnect time is now faster than for Ariane 5. This means that the sequence can be activated at the last possible moment of the countdown, reducing the possibility of unnecessary disconnects on an aborted launch.
During the last months, Latesys, under the responsibility of the CNES and with the support of ArianeGroup, have carried out tests to validate the disconnection and retraction functions of the mechanical systems of the launch pad and the assemblies between launch pad and rocket, and loads. verified mechanics.
These tests involved the cryogenic arms that connect to the upper stage of the Ariane 6; mini masts attached to the launch table connected by umbilicals to the lower stage; and other Ariane 6 connections.
ESA has supervised these tests and analyzed the results to verify and validate the cryogenic connection system.
After these tests, the components were disassembled and will be sent to Kourou for integration into the launch pad. Here they will be reassembled and tested in combination with cryogenic systems that will supply liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to the launch vehicle.
A technical qualification of the launch base followed by combined tests in the spaceport that will last several months will prepare the technical qualification of the launch system and the debut flight of the Ariane 6.
“These tests were a vital link in a chain of test campaigns that allow us to move towards new combined tests in French Guiana. This is a very positive step forward for Ariane 6,” said Pier Domenico Resta, system engineering manager. launch of ESA’s Ariane 6.
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