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Ariane 6 to launch on maiden flight this week - TWIRL #172

The TWIRL logo in front of an artists impression of Ariane 6

This Week in Rocket Launches we have two launches from SpaceX and one launch from Arianespace. The Arianespace mission is more exciting because it will feature the maiden flight of Ariane 6, the next-generation Arianespace rocket that replaces the Ariane 5.

The Ariane 6 has been built by Arianespace on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) as a heavy lift vehicle. Two criticisms levelled against the rocket are its launch cost and lack of reusability, however, officials say it's important so that launch independence can be maintained.

Monday, 8 July

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9
  • When: 9:20 p.m. UTC
  • Where: Florida, US
  • Why: SpaceX will use a Falcon 9 to launch the Turksat 6A comms satellite for Turksat AS. The satellite will be used for commercial and civil telecommunications. It has a proposed service life of more than 16 years. Notably, it's the first geostationary communications satellite to be built in Turkey.

Tuesday, 9 July

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9
  • When: 2:46 a.m. - 7:17 a.m. UTC
  • Where: California, US
  • Why: SpaceX will use a Falcon 9 to launch 20 Starlink satellites into a low Earth orbit. The satellites include seven mini versions and 13 direct-to-cell (DTC) versions. This flight is known as Starlink Group 9-3 if you want to use apps to try and find this batch flying overhead when they've been orbited. The first stage of the rocket will likely perform a landing for reuse.

  • Who: Arianespace
  • What: Ariane 6
  • When: 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. UTC
  • Where: Guiana Space Centre, French Guiana
  • Why: Arianespace will launch an Ariane 6 rocket on its first flight carrying a dummy payload weighing 1600kg and a payload carrier by the European Space Afregency (ESA) which can host experiments totalling 80kg and can release payloads with an aggregated mass of 800kg. The payload carrier will include several satellites including CuriumOne, OOV-Cube, and SpaceCase SC-X01.


  • The first launch we got last week was a hot-fire test of the Tianlong-3 rocket in China. The engines seemed to fail before the rocket came crashing back to Earth and exploding.
  • Next up, Japan's JAXA space agency launched an H3 rocket carrying the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-4 (ALOS-4). This satellite will observe the planet's surface using a phased array type L-band synthetic aperture radar (PALSAR-3).
  • The third mission involved SpaceX launching a Falcon 9 carrying Starlink satellites to a low Earth orbit. After their launch, the first stage of the rocket did a landing.
  • Coinciding with America's Independence Day, Firefly Aerospace launched the fifth Firefly Alpha carrying 8 CubeSats chosen by NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
  • The final launch was a Long March 6A taking off from Shanxi Province, China, carrying the TianHui-5 02 satellites. They will be used for geographic mapping, land resource surveys, scientific experiments, and more.

That's all for this week, be sure to check back next time!

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