The European Space Agency (ESA) recently published a stunning time-lapse of the star-filled night sky at the ESA's Ariane 6 launch site in French Guiana, South America. Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana is preparing for the arrival of Ariane 6, 'Europe's next-generation launch vehicle.'

The Ariana 6 rocket will come in two versions depending on mission requirements. The A62 has two strap-on boosters, while the A64 has four. The Ariane 6 is 207' (63m) tall with a diameter of 18' (5.4m). The mass of the rocket ranges from 1,170,000-1,900,000 lbs (530,000-860,000kg). Replacing the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, the Ariane 6's maiden test flight is scheduled for 2022 following several delays.

You can see what a typical Ariane 6 mission might look like in the ESA's video below. Ariane 62 can launch payloads of approximately 9,920 lbs (4,500kg) into a geostationary orbit and 22,700 lbs (10,300kg) into low Earth orbit. By strapping on an additional two boosters, Ariane 64 can launch payloads of around 25,350 lbs (11,500kg) into geostationary orbit and 45,400 lbs (20,600kg) into low Earth orbit. With a full payload, Ariane 6 weighs about the same as one and a half Airbus A380 passenger airplanes.

The development of Ariane 6 has comprised an industrial network of more than 600 companies in 13 European countries, including 350 small- and medium-sized companies. The development is led by prime contractor ArianeGroup. The Ariane 6 launch facilities in French Guiana, seen in the time-lapse video above, are being prepared by France's space agency, CNES.

Artist's rendition of the two configurations of Ariane 6, the two-booster A62 and the four-booster A64. Image credit: ESA

The modular design of Ariane 6 means that it will be suitable for a wide range of missions, including Earth observation, telecommunications, meteorology, science and navigation. Adapters have been developed to allow Ariane 6 to carry multiple small satellites at once, allowing small companies more cost-effective access to the space industry. For more information on Ariane 6, click here.