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Ariane 6 cryo-arms mimic liftoff

on 29 April 2022

Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana is preparing for the arrival of Ariane 6, ESA’s new heavy-lift rocket. The latest round of testing aims to validate the system of fuel lines and mechanical supporting arms that will keep Ariane 6 topped up with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in the critical moments before liftoff. This work is part of the final preparations of the new Ariane 6 launch complex and all the systems necessary for a launch.

The ‘cryo-arms’ support the upper umbilicals which supply cryogenic top-up fuel, maintain the correct pressurisation of the tanks, cool the engines before ignition and generally keep the upper stage in an optimal condition right up to the point of liftoff. The same umbilicals allow the fuel to be drained safely if a launch is aborted.

Each arm is 13 m long and weighs 20 tonnes. One arm supplies liquid hydrogen at -250°C, the other supplies liquid oxygen at -180°C. When Ariane 6 lifts off, these arms will disconnect from the rocket and then pivot away quickly, in just 2.6 seconds, to avoid interfering with the rocket's ascent.

This manoeuvre requires great precision. Almost simultaneously it is necessary to disconnect the arms, protect the supply hoses from gas ejections from the boosters and allow the launch vehicle to pass while avoiding any contact with it.

More details here.

Image and video credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace