ESA’s Canopée Sets Sail on a Wind-Powered Voyage with Ariane 6

December 16, 2023
1 min read
ESA's Canopée , Ariane 6 on board Canopée
ESA's Canopée , Ariane 6 on board Canopée. Photo Source : ESA

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) innovative approach to space transportation takes a leap with the Canopée, a novel ship designed to transport the Ariane 6 launcher elements. This vessel stands out with its unique blend of traditional sailing and modern technology, marking a significant step in sustainable shipping practices within the space industry.

Canopée visits Bordeaux

Canopée: A Fusion of Old and New

At 121 meters long, Canopée is equipped with 37-meter-tall sails, a nod to ancient maritime traditions, yet it’s anything but old-fashioned. This hybrid-propulsion vessel reduces emissions and fuel consumption by up to 30%, thanks to its four Oceanwings sails, each sprawling 363 square meters. Its two diesel engines, boasting 3840 kW power, complement the sails, ensuring reliable and efficient transport.

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Canopée off the coast of French Guiana

The Journey of the Ariane 6 Components

Manufactured in mainland Europe, the Ariane 6 components, including stages and high-tech engines, require utmost care during transportation. Canopée’s journey begins in Bremen, Germany, collecting the upper stage, and then moves to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, to load the fairing. Subsequently, in Le Havre, France, the core stage is loaded, followed by a stop in Bordeaux, France, for the solid propulsion elements. The final destination is the port of Pariacabo, Kourou, in French Guiana.

Canopée full on

Sustainable Shipping in the Space Industry

Canopée’s design allows it to navigate both high seas and the shallow Kourou river. Its unique structure accommodates large, fragile loads, essential for space transportation. Its capability to complete up to 12 trips annually for the next 15 years underscores ESA’s commitment to sustainable practices in space logistics.

Technical Specifications and Construction

  • Length: 121 m
  • Width: 22 m
  • Sail Height: 37 m
  • Displacement: 10,000 tonnes
  • Maximum Speed: 17 knots (31 km/h)

Chartered by Alizés, a joint venture of Jifmar Offshore Services and Zéphyr & Borée, and built by Neptune Marine Projects B.V., Canopée’s construction began in 2020 in the Polish port of Sczezcin. By December 2022, it had proven its seaworthiness, with its first operational trip to Kourou occurring in January 2023.

Ariane 6 on board Canopée

A Step Towards Eco-Friendly Space Missions

This initiative is more than just an efficient transportation solution; it represents ESA’s dedication to eco-friendly practices in space missions. The integration of traditional sailing techniques with modern technology in Canopée is a testament to the innovative spirit guiding today’s space endeavors. It highlights the potential for sustainable practices in even the most technologically advanced sectors, like space exploration.

Sunita Somvanshi

With over two decades of dedicated service in the state environmental ministry, this seasoned professional has cultivated a discerning perspective on the intricate interplay between environmental considerations and diverse industries. Sunita is armed with a keen eye for pivotal details, her extensive experience uniquely positions her to offer insightful commentary on topics ranging from business sustainability and global trade's environmental impact to fostering partnerships, optimizing freight and transport for ecological efficiency, and delving into the realms of thermal management, logistics, carbon credits, and energy transition. Through her writing, she not only imparts valuable knowledge but also provides a nuanced understanding of how businesses can harmonize with environmental imperatives, making her a crucial voice in the discourse on sustainable practices and the future of industry.

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