Ariane 6 engine core aces qualification tests
The rocket that will power the first stage of ESA's Ariane 6 launcher has passed its qualification tests. Having completed a series of static firings lasting a total of almost four hours, the Vulcain 2.1 liquid-fueled engine can now go on to combined testing in French Guiana.
The successor rocket to ESA's Ariane 5 rocket, the €3.6-billion (US$3.9-billion) Ariane 6 has been under development since 2010 and, if all goes as planned, is scheduled to fly sometime next year. One of the key components of this is the Vulcain 2.1 engine, which is an upgrade of the Vulcain 2 engines used on Ariane 5.
Like the Vulcain 2, the Vulcain 2.1 is fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, though is produces 310,000 lb of thrust instead of 256,300 lb and is designed to power the booster for the first eight minutes of flight, sending the upper stage to an altitude of 200 km (120 mi).
According to ESA, the Vulcain 2.1 passed its qualification review last week after two static testing campaigns conducted over 15 months at the DLR German Aerospace Center test facility in Lampoldshausen. The last of these was in July, during which the engine fired for 655 seconds for a final total test operation time of 13,798 seconds. During this time, the engine was not only operating, but the Ariane 6 booster's flight actuators were functioning, gimbaling it as if it was an actual launch.
Now that the tests in Germany have been completed, the Vulcain 2.1 will be refurbished and subjected to dynamic and vibration tests before being shipped to French Guiana to be installed in the Ariane 6 core stage for combined static-firing testing with the P120C solid-rocket booster to determine the core stage acceleration profile.
"These very positive results confirm the functional and mechanical behavior of Vulcain 2.1," says Guy Pilchen, ESA’s Ariane 6 launcher project manager. "The upcoming combined tests will qualify Ariane 6 subsystems at stage and launcher level."
The video below discusses the Vulcain 2.1 tests.