The first launch of the new Ariane 6 rocket from the European Space Agency (ESA) is scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year.
For this new rocket, the ESA built a new launch complex, ELA-4, at the Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana. This new complex was inaugurated on September 28, 2021. It occupies 170 hectares and its construction involved moving 900,000 cubic meters of metal, 55,000 cubic meters of concrete and 8,000 cubic meters of structural steel, a job that took out 600 people. The complex includes a building for the horizontal assembly of the rockets, the launch pad with concrete foundations and a mobile gantry, inside which work will be completed to get the rockets ready for launch.
The Ariane 6 space shuttles have a height of 63 meters and a diameter of 5.4 meters, so a large structure was needed to house them. According to ESA, this mobile gantry is a mobile metal structure 90 meters high and weighing 8,200 tons when fully equipped. The structure rolls on rails. To give us an idea, it is almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty (93 meters) and weighs almost 1,000 tons more than the Eiffel Tower. The ESA also points out that it is equivalent to the mass of more than 1,600 elephants.
"The mobile gantry is equipped with platforms to give access to the launch vehicle for integration on the launch pad. It stores and protects Ariane 6 until it is retracted before launch", ESA says. Yesterday this agency published an interesting fast-camera video that shows the movement of this colossal gantry:
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