EventsEventsPodcasts
Loader
Find Us
ADVERTISEMENT

T-Minus Ariane 6: Inside Europe's critical mission to reclaim space autonomy | Euronews Tech Talks

T-Minus Ariane 6: Inside Europe's critical mission to reclaim space autonomy | Euronews Tech Talks
Copyright 
By Marta Rodriguez MartinezDavid Walsh
Published on Updated
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

Raymond, Aline, Anne-Sophie, and Romain are four of the many Europeans involved in the building and launch of Ariane 6, Europe’s brand new rocket. And they also hold a crucial responsibility: each of them is authorised to press the red button to halt the launch.

ADVERTISEMENT

As Europe stands on the cusp of a new era in space exploration, the imminent launch of the Ariane 6 rocket from the Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, signifies more than just a technological milestone.

It represents the continent's stride towards reclaiming its independent access to space.

At the heart of this mission are Raymond Boyce, Aline Decadi, Anne-Sophie Chassagnou, and Romain Delordre, each of whom bears the responsibility of potentially halting the launch if any anomalies arise.

The countdown

Raymond Boyce is the director of operations for this inaugural launch. On launch day, he will be positioned centrally within the Jupiter Mission Control Room, overseeing a series of computer screens that track every step of the launch procedure.

“It’s quite relaxed at the start,” Boyce noted. “But as we approach the one-hour mark before launch, the atmosphere intensifies as we begin the dialogue with the launcher".

Boyce’s crucial role is the final checkpoint of a meticulous process, ensuring that all systems are green-lit for the launch.

He is the last person with the authority to press the red button to halt the mission, a decision that could be triggered by even the smallest irregularity detected on his screens.

The troubleshooter

Aline Decadi, the Ariane 6 Launch System Dependability and Safety Lead Engineer at the European Space Agency (ESA), plays a pivotal role in ensuring the rocket’s preparedness.

She uses the rocket's digital twin to anticipate all kinds of issues and find solutions.

"I also inject some failures in our simulations to, make them more robust, to solve the problem, to find the solution to any kind of failure," she said.

View of the Ariane 6 launchpad in Kourou, French Guiana.
View of the Ariane 6 launchpad in Kourou, French Guiana.Euronews

Decadi, a motorcycle enthusiast who enjoys riding in the jungle during her stints in Kourou, has been involved with the Ariane 6 project since its inception nearly a decade ago.

"Two years ago, we started the tests and tested all the safety barriers and mitigations," she says. “We tested everything we could to ensure the launcher’s readiness".

The weather greenlight

While Decadi's work is grounded in technical precision, Anne-Sophie Chassagnou's position at the weather station introduces an element of unpredictability.

Chassagnou, a meteorology engineer from the French Space Agency (CNES), makes a decision on the launch's go-ahead based on weather conditions.

"I am very excited and can't wait for the launch. I hope everything goes well, but I am sure everything will go well," she said optimistically.

ADVERTISEMENT
It was both the worst and best day of my life.My body was shaking as I pushed the red button.
Anne-Sophie Chassagnou
Meteorologist, CNES

The weather team’s involvement begins the day before the launch with an extensive briefing for key decision-makers.

On launch day, Chassagnou and her colleagues provide continuous updates on six critical weather criteria, three of which are related to wind conditions and three to lightning risks.

These updates are essential for determining whether the launch can proceed safely.

"The perfect day for a launch is sunny, with no strong wind, and no risk of lightning," she explained.

ADVERTISEMENT

Chassagnou recalled the nerve-wracking experience of halting the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) launch due to adverse weather conditions.

"It was both the worst and best day of my life," she admitted. "My body was shaking as I pushed the red button".

The final weather report, delivered ten minutes before the launch, is critical. Following this, Chassagnou and her team move to a secure bunker away from the launch pad.

The last team

If the launch is successful, there is a team that will not be able to join the celebrations right away.

ADVERTISEMENT

Romain Delordre, Telemetry Manager at Kourou from CNES, is one of those who will still be keenly focused on the rocket.

On the day of the launch, Delordre and his colleagues start at T-minus 10 hours. They track the rocket's trajectory to ensure it follows the correct path and assess the performance of its systems and components.

And they keep monitoring it after the launch.

"So we're there when everyone has applauded for the satellite separation; we remain there until the end of the launcher mission, roughly about three hours after the launch," he said. 

ADVERTISEMENT

This is not only crucial for the current mission but also for collecting data for future ones.

Ariane 6 is set to debut on July 9. The new facilities at the Ariane 6 Launch Centre, both above and below ground, are specifically designed to support rocket launches for the next decade.

Additional sources • Jeremy Wilks

Share this articleComments

You might also like