Ariane 6’s transport ship has wings!


Even before the new Ariane 6 rocket blasts off towards the stars, it will be saying hello to some star …fish! Because in order to get to the launch pad in French Guiana, south America, Ariane 6 will be taken from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean on board Canopée, a huge ship designed to transport the rocket. As you will see, it’s a ship like no other.

Illustration Canopée at sea


A huge sailing boat

Canopée is not just any cargo ship. It can use both wind power and engines to ride the waves, and that’s a big first! For six years, several hundred people have worked very hard to build it. To give you an idea of its size, Canopée is as long as a row of ten buses end to end – 121 meters! But most impressive of all are the ship’s sails. They are like very big wings so that Canopée can be powered by the wind. Experts have been working for a very long time to design such big boats that can sail while generating as little pollution as possible. Canopée will be showing the world that it’s now possible.

Very special wings

Canopée was built by several companies across Europe. When it was assembled in Poland, the only things missing were its sails. These were made by Ayro, a French company, which designed four sails, called Oceanwings®, specially created for Canopée. They are enormous, taller than a 10-storey building, they can rotate so that they can always capture the wind, and they can be lowered automatically. Calculations have shown that they are twice as efficient as conventional sails, enabling Canopée to go as fast sailing as it does with its engines. Which is handy for the dozen or so round trips between Europe and French Guiana that Canopée will have to make every year to transport Ariane 6.

On the high seas

In December 2022, Canopée made its first round trip from the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. This first voyage was to find the best sea route to take and to check that the ports on the way can accommodate the ship. In total, Canopée took 27 days to reach its destination: the port of Pariacabo in French Guiana. Canopée recently visited the port of Bordeaux in south-west France for its official baptism ceremony, before heading off to Bremen in north-west Germany to test loading operations. The voyage was a great success and now the ship’s crew can’t wait for Canopée to set sail with Ariane 6 on board.

Illustration Canopée at the quayside