2023 Retrospective 12-28-2023 |  5 minutes


2023 is drawing to a close. But before we embark on the new journey through 2024, let’s take a look back at some of the events that have marked each month of the past year, on land, at sea and in space.


January – Canopée docks for the first time in French Guiana

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    Custom-designed to ship Ariane 6 stages and sub-assemblies, the next-generation hybrid sail cargo vessel Canopée completed its very first transatlantic crossing to reach Pariacabo harbor in French Guiana. More than just a milestone, this series of sea trials aimed to qualify the harbor infrastructure and the route of the ship’s future travels.


    February – ArianeGroup stars on the silver screen

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      Making dreams come true: such was the goal of Nicolas Giraud, director of the movie “L’astronaute”, released on February 15, 2023. It gives the public a unique opportunity to discover the world of space and glimpse behind the scenes at ArianeGroup’s Vernon site, where part of the movie was shot. Jim dreams of accomplishing the first-ever amateur manned space flight. And to realistically help him, twelve ArianeGroup employees appear in the movie alongside Nicolas Giraud, Mathieu Kassovitz and Hélène Vincent. Dreaming of space and sharing our passion: this collaboration truly puts ArianeGroup up among the stars.

      © Nord-Ouest Films, Orange Studio, Artémis Production, Frères Zak

      March – Space innovation at the Hello Tomorrow Global Summit

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        As part of the Deep Tech Days aimed at meeting the challenges of the 21st century, ArianeGroup took part in the Hello Tomorrow Global Summit in Paris, on March 9 and 10, 2023. During the two-day event, ArianeGroup and Safran shared their ambition to make hydrogen a real solution for achieving zero emissions. This ambition is illustrated with H2 Explore, the program for cooperation with start-ups demonstrating potential for the future of space.

        @ArianeGroup – Hello Tomorrow Global Summit

        April – Launch of the JUICE space probe for ESA

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          A long journey began on April 14, 2023 when Ariane 5 lifted off from the European Spaceport in Kourou carrying the European Space Agency (ESA) JUICE space probe. The successful launch began Europe’s first mission to explore the Jupiter system which the probe will reach in 2031, thanks in particular to the propulsion system developed by ArianeGroup’s teams in Germany. On arrival, JUICE will closely observe three of Jupiter’s icy moons, Europe, Ganymede and Callisto, in search of answers to two fundamental questions: What are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life, and how does the solar system work?


          May – One second, no more, no less! JUICE’s ultra-precise launch window

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            Precisely 12:14:29 UTC. Not one second sooner or later. The successful launch of ESA’s JUICE probe towards the icy moons of Jupiter required a specific trajectory, with a launch window calculated to the second. Time was of the essence to enable the probe to make several gravity-assist fly-bys of Earth, the Moon and Venus, before being “catapulted” out to the Jupiter system.

            ©2023 ESA-CNES-ARIANESPACE / Optique vidéo du CSG - JM GUILLON

            June – GEOTracker® space surveillance service renamed Helix

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              ArianeGroup owns and operates Europe’s largest network of optical observation stations around the globe. This system provides ultra-precise positioning and orbit-determination data for space objects, allowing customers to protect their satellites from collision, interference or unwelcome contact. The space surveillance service has been renamed Helix. The new name marks its extension to low and medium Earth orbits, for night and day operations, with enhanced precision, in addition to the geostationary service which has been operational since 2011.

              July – Ariane 5’s last lift-off

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                117. That’s the number of Ariane 5 launchers that have taken up position on the launch pad at the Kourou spaceport, ready to break through the Earth’s gravity. But on July 5, 2023, flight VA261 brought Ariane 5’s career to a triumphant end. Carrying the German Heinrich-Hertz communications satellite and the French SYRACUSE 4B military communications satellite, the launcher’s final mission marked a Franco-German success, leaving 27 years’ of experience for the benefit of its successor Ariane 6.

                ©2023 ESA-CNES-ARIANESPACE / Optique vidéo du CSG - P PIRON

                August – A look back at Ariane 5’s flagship missions

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                  Herschel & Plank, ATV, BepiColombo, ARD, Galileo, JWST, JUICE, Rosetta: eight missions that were not chosen by chance. Eight missions that set themselves apart, because they travelled further, carried more satellites or more weight, deployed exceptional payloads. And often for the very first time. In August, ArianeGroup’s “Unique rocket, emblematic missions” series looked back at these achievements that built the Ariane 5 legend. A great tribute to its incredible career after the last flight.


                  September – Complete hot-fire test for Ariane 6

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                    September was marked by the success of two very important tests for Ariane 6. On September 1, another hot-fire test (HFT) of the launcher’s upper stage was successfully completed at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in Lampoldshausen. Then, on September 5, the core stage carried out its first complete HFT on the Ariane 6 launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana, as part of the combined tests campaign.

                    ©2023 ESA-CNES-ARIANESPACE / Optique vidéo du CSG - S MARTIN

                    October – Prometheus® and Themis reach new milestones in reuse in Europe

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                      Designed to develop reuse technologies in Europe, the Prometheus® and Themis demonstrators made major advances at ArianeGroup’s Vernon site. The latest tests of the Prometheus® engine on the Themis reusable main stage demonstrator enabled the ignition and running of the engine for 30 seconds. Building a complete stage running on liquid oxygen and liquid biomethane is an essential step towards achieving reusable European space launchers.

                      November – Successful M51.3 missile in-flight qualification test

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                        On November 18, 2023, ArianeGroup and the French Defense Procurement and Technology Agency (DGA) successfully completed the first in-flight test of an M51.3 missile from the Ballistic Launch Base (BLB) in Biscarrosse, in south-west France. This qualification flight, a crucial milestone in the incremental evolution approach of the M51.3 missile, proved its successful development. As industrial prime contractor for the M51 missile system on behalf of DGA, ArianeGroup is responsible for its entire lifecycle, from design to dismantling. Designed to be launched from French nuclear ballistic missile submarines, the M51 missile is a key component of the French oceanic nuclear deterrent force (FOST). ArianeGroup is the only company in Europe with the expertise to design, develop and build this kind of missile which combines power, precision and reliability, just like the Ariane launcher.

                        ©DGA - Essais de missiles Sites Landes

                        December – Spotlight on Ariane 6 design

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                          No feature of Ariane 6 has arisen by chance. Its design is underpinned by aerothermodynamic stresses, power requirements, and a constant quest for faultless performance. From the number of boosters to the length of the fairing and the color of the fuselage, every aspect of Ariane 6 is meticulously designed to achieve the perfect balance between form and function, modularity and flexibility. And yet a real beauty emerges from the sum of these requirements, the epitome of European expertise. We looked back at some of the imperatives that have shaped Ariane 6’s design.