Spaceflight Insider

Ariane 6 VINCI engine enters hot-fire testing campaign

CGI graphic of the Ariane 6 four-booster configuration (A64).

An artist’s rendition of the Ariane 6 four-booster configuration (A64). Image Credit: ESA / David Ducros

Europe’s future launcher, Ariane 6, has entered the first test campaign, marking a key milestone in its development. Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), the company that will manufacture the booster, announced that it has begun the hot-fire testing activities of the rocket’s upper stage engine, named VINCI.

The tests that began in the first half of May are being conducted on the P4.1 altitude simulation test bench at the German Aerospace Centre’s (DLR) Institute of Space Propulsion in Lampoldshausen, Germany. This facility offers research activities and experiments relating to rocket test beds as well as fundamental research into the combustion processes in liquid rocket and air-breathing engines for future space transport systems.

The Institute plans, builds, and operates test beds for space propulsion systems on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) and in collaboration with the European space industry.

Ariane 6 VINCI engine test

Hot-fire tests of the VINCI engine at the German Aerospace Centre’s (DLR) Institute of Space Propulsion in Lampoldshausen, Germany. Photo Credit: DLR

The current test phase of the VINCI engine, called M5R, will last until September 2016. One of the tests includes burning this engine for up to 1,000 seconds.

According to ASL, this test campaign permits to validate and qualify the operation of the engine on its operating points. The VINCI engine will be qualified prior to Ariane 6 launcher qualification.

The P4.1 altitude simulation test rig is used to qualify the engine for flight readiness. During the tests, the DLR researchers will acquire knowledge regarding the behavior of the VINCI engine. This knowledge will be crucial for ASL for final optimizations of the Ariane 6 launcher.

The aim of this campaign is to determine the final design of VINCI prior to the qualification campaign scheduled for 2017.

VINCI is entering, in a few months, the qualification phase after several years of development.

The facility in Lampoldshausen will also carry out fueling and hot running tests for the upper stage of the Ariane 6 launcher. DLR will build a special P5.2 test rig to conduct these tests.

The Ariane 6 will be 207 feet (63 meters) tall and 18 feet (5.4 meters) in diameter. The “62” configuration will weigh around 500 metric tons at liftoff and is intended mainly for government and scientific missions. It will be capable of launching up to five metric tons into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). Ariane 64 will have a liftoff weight of around 800 metric tons and is intended for commercial dual-satellite launches of up to 10.5 metric tons into GTO.

Maiden orbital flight of Ariane 6 is currently scheduled for 2020 and will be used in parallel with Ariane 5 until 2023 when the older version will be retired after more than 25 years of service.

The first stage of the Ariane 6 will have a new engine called Vulcain 2.1. This is an upgraded version of the Ariane 5’s Vulcain 2 engine. DLR’s P5 test stand is currently being adapted to the new requirements for the development and qualification tests of the Vulcain 2.1, which are planned for 2017.


Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

Reader Comments

It all seems a bit of a waste of time and money unless of course you’re the ones getting the money. Ariane 6 can’t compete without subsidies and has nothing to other customers. Seriously, who’s going to pay extra for new (unproven) rocket?

The usefulness of Vinci goes beyond Ariane 6.

Having said that, Vinci having been in development for fifteen (!) years bodes ill for European spaceflight in general.

Ariane 6 est un lanceur de moyenne à forte puissance (5 à 10,5 tonnes en GTO) que l’Agence Spatiale Européenne développe pour remplacer sa fusée lourde Ariane 5 vers 2021. Malgré son succès et sa position dominante dans le domaine des lancements de satellites géostationnaires, Ariane 5 coûte cher à fabriquer et ses parts de marché sont menacées à moyen terme à la fois par l’évolution du marché des satellites et par l’arrivée de concurrents : SpaceX et Longue Marche. Dans le cadre de la conférence ministérielle de novembre 2012 qui fixait pour 2 ans les budgets de l’Agence Spatiale Européenne, les ministres de l’UE ont octroyé une enveloppe de 157 millions d’euros pour l’étude du nouveau lanceur qui devrait à la fois remplacer Ariane 5 et la version du lanceur russe Soyouz utilisée par les pays européens. La décision de fabriquer Ariane 6 a été prise en décembre 2014 après avoir figé la configuration en septembre 2014.
Pour répondre le plus justement possible à la demande en ce qui concerne l’Export et l’Europe, l’ESA a décidé de fabriquer 2 modèles d’Ariane 6 :
– A 62 pour la version légère, c’est-à-dire une masse au décollage de 500 tonnes avec une charge embarquée de 5 tonnes pour ce qui concerne les satellites de moyennes tailles,
– A 64 pour la version lourde, c’est-à-dire une masse au décollage de 835 tonnes avec une charge embarquée de 10,5 tonnes pour ce qui concerne les satellites de grosses tailles.
Avec ARIANE 5 et ARIANE 6, ESA pourra répondre à toutes les demandes allant du petit satellite jusqu’au gros satellite tels que les satellites GIOVE devant former la Constellation GALILEO (30 Satellites Identiques). ARIANE 5 pouvant simultanément transporter et mettre en orbite à 28500 km d’altitude 5 satellites GIOVE.
Pour la propulsion du modèle A62, 2 Boosters suffisent et pour la propulsion du modèle A64, c’est 4 Boosters qui équiperont ce dernier modèle.

Alain Mocchetti
Ingénieur en Construction Mécanique & en Automatismes
Diplômé Bac + 5 Universitaire (1985)
UFR Sciences de Metz

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