the last straight line before takeoff

Once trimmed, this famous skirt will be shipped to the Guyanese spaceport. Elle is an element to assemble for the premier shooting of Ariane 6, the new fusion of the European range. Its take-off is expected before the end of the year, although no date has been confirmed yet. Suffice it to say that in the workshops and offices of Issac, one has entered the concrete level. The same goes for the Haillan, a handful of miles away. In one of the buildings of the complex, huge Japanese robots perform elegant arabesques. The strongest adjusts the screwed parts of the nozzles, his little brother the glued parts.

The skirt of one of the boosters of the first flight of Ariane 6, soon with its wiring in the Haillan factory.


Robots repeat relentlessly

The nozzles? Each time they take off, the cameras stare at them in the final seconds of the countdown, waiting for the hellfire to escape. “It simply came to our notice then. They channel flue gases at 3,300 ° C, three times the temperature of the molten lava. The material is about ten centimeters wide. On its other side, it should not heat to more than fifty degrees. The man who details this miracle is named Yann Talamoni. He is responsible for Ariane 6’s “solid propulsion” programs. If you don’t stop it – why stop it? – He is able to give you a two-hour lecture on this technological gem without catching his breath. Passion never dries up.

The hardware is tested. Nozzles are already equipped with Ariane 5 boosters. On the other hand, methods are breaking down. Where manual procedures predominated – and still do – on Ariane 5, they will be fully automated in the near future on Ariane 6. Robots will assemble, screw, bolt, glue and pick up the necessary tools themselves. The rest of an operator in the “collage” workshop. His know-how is inimitable. The man “smells” the texture of the glue. For artificial intelligence, it’s still a glue, precisely.

On participating in the verdict often tests

In this new building, the whole industrial logic of the program decided by Europe at the end of 2014 unfolds: the simplification and robotization of tasks, the saving of time and savings. Once the power-up phase is over, the first fifteen shots, ArianeGroup will have to be able to “get out” up to eleven pitchers a year. The company will have no respite due to its wealth problems: a month ago, its subsidiary Arianespace won a heavy-duty contract, launching and launching the constellation of Kuiper satellites from Amazon. That’s 18 volumes spread over three years. “We have eleven shots planned with our other customers, for a total of 29. Recently, our detractors promised us four shots a year, ”said Gilles Fonblanc, the owner of ArianeGroup’s Aquitaine establishments.

One of the huge robots of the “B-Line” of the Haillan factory, where the nozzles are assembled.


The future is bright, but the present is still subject to uncertainty. To get rid of the Earth’s gravity, the first Ariane 6 is waiting for the test batteries on the menu for the next few months. They will have Kourou as their theater, where the proper transmission of data between the ground and the rocket must be verified in every detail. And Lampoldshausen, Germany, where the operation of the upper floor and its engine will be tested. Soon the verdict.

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