This is an essential prerequisite before connecting the launcher to the ground for the continuation of the combined tests. The G4 campaign made it possible to test all the cases of failure identified on the test bench.

Ariane 6 gantry. Credits: CNES/ESA/Arianespace-ArianeGroup/Optique Vidéo CSG/P Baudon, 2022

The Ariane 6 space launcher, set to succeed the Ariane 5, has successfully completed the first phase of its final testing campaign, known as G4. The control bench, a crucial component of the launch system, acts as a dashboard for pilots to control and operate the various mechanical, fluid, and electrical systems involved in the launch process.

The development and qualification of the control bench were subject to a rigorous procedure, including individual validation of each element and obtaining technical qualification for the assembled bench on the ELA-4. The bench’s ability to handle the various possible failures without posing a risk to people or property was tested during the G4 campaign.

Sébastien De Zotti, a specialist in electrical implementation at CNES’s Space Transport Department, stated, “after the technical qualification, these tests consist in operating the control bench in real configuration but without a launcher, in order to test all the possible failures which could cause a critical risk for people or property.”

Pushing the system to its limits

The G4 campaign for the Ariane 6 space launcher focused on thoroughly analyzing the potential risks and breakdowns of the control bench. The campaign simulated a real launch by placing the bench under the conditions of a launch and implementing various phases, including the critical final synchronized sequence that leads to the ignition of the engine and take-off. The campaign also intentionally caused breakdowns to test the bench’s reaction and ensure safety measures are in place to protect people, property, and the launcher.

According to Sébastien De Zotti, a specialist in electrical implementation at CNES’s Space Transport Department, “This comes down to pushing the bench to the limits and watching to what extent it reacts in accordance with expectations. The objective is to ensure that we cover all the cases of breakdowns having a system impact that the we could face in critical cases, and that we always remain safe and able to protect property and people, the launcher and the launch pad. An important part of the tests concerned the synchronized sequence, which is a phase extremely critical where a lot of things are happening.”

The campaign was completed without any interaction with the assembled but not yet connected launcher, and further validation tests will take place in February. These tests will ensure that the control bench behaves as intended and pave the way for the next stage of combined testing with the launcher.

Supercomputers in the dark. Credits: CNES

Did you know?

The G4 campaign took place over the last 3 weeks of October. Overall, it gave rise to 40 major system tests and the launch of around thirty synchronized sequences , with a simulator representing the launcher. It mobilized about fifteen people in the control room on a daily basis, employees of the CNES Space Transport Department, ArianeGroup and industrial partners of the Integrated Bench Team which developed the control bench, and the Integrated Applied Team that developed the software (In computing, software is a set of information relating to processing…) application.