The Ariane 6 launch vehicle program has progressed towards first flight with the start on Oct. 5 of hot-fire tests of the rocket’s upper stage and its all-new Vinci engine, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). This test series is a critical milestone on a development path that will soon see Ariane 6 replace Ariane 5 as ESA’s heavy launcher. To restart in space, earlier engines relied on large quantities of tanked helium to generate the necessary pressure and temperature in the propellant tanks and to ensure there are no bubbles in the fuel lines. However, the APU delivers these conditions using only small amounts of the cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen already carried in the main tanks.
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