The Ariane 6 rocket versus its competitors

Here is an overview of the main heavy-lift launchers competing with the rocket in which Europeans are placing their hopes. These rockets are powerful enough to place geostationary satellites into orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers, while being capable of sending larger loads into low orbits, at a few hundred kilometers, in particular the constellations that will represent 85% of the satellites to be launched by 2032, according to the specialist firm Euroconsult.

The rocket is available in two versions, depending on whether it carries two or four boosters. Ariane 62, with two boosters, can carry 4.5 tonnes to geostationary orbit (GTO) and 10.3 tonnes to low orbit (LEO), slightly more than the Russian Soyuz launcher.

Ariane 64, for its part, will be able to put 11.5 tonnes into a geostationary orbit and 21.6 tonnes into low orbit. The limit of 20 tonnes in LEO marks the distinction between medium and heavy launchers, according to NASA’s classification.

It will be able to deploy constellations of satellites in different orbits thanks to its relightable Vinci engine, but its main stage will not be reusable, unlike that of the Falcon 9.

  • 2 Falcon 9

    The space industry’s bogeyman has been fired 350 times since its first flight in 2010, including 91 last year, two-thirds of which were to launch SpaceX’s own constellation, Starlink.

    Falcon 9 is also used for the US government and NASA, at a high price that allows it to offer lower prices for its other commercial customers, according to its competitor Arianespace.

    The rocket can carry 8.3 tonnes to a geostationary transfer orbit and 22.8 tonnes to low orbit.

    SpaceX has also developed the Falcon Heavy, capable of placing nearly 27 tons in GTO and 64 tons in low orbit, and is developing Starship, which will be able to carry up to 250 tons in a non-reusable version, SpaceX promises.

  • 3 New Glenn, futur mastodonte ?

    After years of delay, the first flight of Blue Origin’s reusable rocket is scheduled for September 2024, according to NASA, which will be the inaugural customer. With its 98 meters, compared to 62 for Ariane 6, New Glenn will be able to carry up to 45 tons in low orbit and 13 tons in GTO. The company founded by Jeff Bezos remains very discreet about its order book, but many flights will be intended to put Amazon’s constellation, Kuiper, into orbit.

  • 4 Vulcan Centaur

    United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, carried out the inaugural launch in January of the rocket that will replace its Atlas V and Delta IV launchers, the rockets preferred by the American authorities for institutional launches. The launcher, whose engines will be reusable, will be able to have up to 6 boosters depending on the configuration and put up to 27.2 tons into low orbit and 15.3 tons into GTO.

  • 5 H3, the new Japanese rocket

    Like Ariane 6, development of the Japanese H3 rocket began in 2014. The launcher, which has up to four boosters and a capacity of 6.5 tonnes in GTO, made its first flight in February.

  • 6 Angara-A5

    The Russian rocket that is to succeed the aging Proton launcher has encountered development delays and in April only carried out its fourth launch since the first in 2014. The rocket can place 24.5 tonnes into orbit in LEO and 5.4 tonnes in GTO.

  • 7 Long March 5

Long March 5 is the heavy-lift version of China’s rocket family. It has been fired 12 times since 2016. It has a capacity of 25 tons in low Earth orbit and 14 tons in geostationary transfer orbit.



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