Ariane 6, the European Space Agency's (ESA) next-generation launch vehicle recently passed a major milestone as the rocket moves closer to its debut.
A Nov. 23 wet dress rehearsal put the spacecraft and its ground crews to the test, running through a full countdown and rocket fueling, and culminating in a 7-minute firing of the core stage's main engine.
A new video released by ESA and posted to the agency's YouTube channel highlights the Nov. 23 test in a timelapse compilation, condensing the rocket rollout and hot fire to about 2.5 minutes.
The test took place at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. As seen in the video, the Ariane 6 mobile launch bay was rolled away from the rocket and launchpad, undergoing the same procedures followed for an actual launch, before ground crews completed a simulated countdown.
The Ariane 6 is fixed with a single Vulcain 2.1 engine on its core stage, which burned through 165 tons (150 metric tons) of fuel during the Nov. 23 test — in the case of Ariane 6, a mixture of hydrogen and super-chilled liquid oxygen.
At launch, Ariane 6 is equipped with either two or four solid rocket boosters, which were not fired during the recent test. The second stage, which uses a smaller Vinci engine, will undergo its own hot-fire test in December. If successful, ESA expects Ariane 6's first launch sometime in 2024.
The 203-foot-tall (62-meters) rocket is meant to replace Europe's Ariane 5, which launched for the final time in July of this year. Ariane 6 was originally expected to be operational by 2020, but delays in the rocket's development have left Europe without a dedicated launch vehicle in the interim.
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Josh Dinner is Space.com's Content Manager. He is a writer and photographer with a passion for science and space exploration, and has been working the space beat since 2016. Josh has covered the evolution of NASA's commercial spaceflight partnerships, from early Dragon and Cygnus cargo missions to the ongoing development and launches of crewed missions from the Space Coast, as well as NASA science missions and more. He also enjoys building 1:144 scale models of rockets and human-flown spacecraft. Find some of Josh's launch photography on Instagram and his website, and follow him on Twitter, where he mostly posts in haiku.