Vinci Engine for New Ariane 5 Upper Stage Successfully Fired

Ariane 5

Nov. 10, 2010

The Vinci® rocket engine, developed by Snecma (Safran group) as prime contractor, was successfully ground tested yesterday with its extendible nozzle deployed, under conditions representing an actual flight. Yesterday’s firing test marked a major milestone in the development of this rocket engine, which will power the new upper stage of the Ariane 5 launcher starting in 2016.

The 47th Vinci® ground test was carried out on the P4.1 test rig at the German aerospace center DLR’s facility in Lampoldshausen. For the first time, the engine was equipped with its extendible nozzle, nearly 3 meters long and made of a carbon composite with a ceramic matrix, manufactured by Snecma Propulsion Solide (Safran group). The test reproduced the actual conditions of operation in the vacuum of space, thanks to an altitude simulation system developed by DLR, the only one of its kind in Europe.

“This is a major step forward in the development of Ariane 5ME, demonstrating the validity of the technical choices made to date, as well as the maturity of the technologies used,” said Martin Sion, head of Snecma’s Space Engines division.

Since the beginning of the current tests campaign in April 2010, this Vinci® engine has logged a total of 4,255 seconds of operation – more than six times its nominal operating time on a single mission. The engine tested today is the third development model; the fourth engine is now in final assembly, with a new series of tests scheduled to start in early 2011.

The Vinci® cryogenic engine is being developed by Snecma within the scope of the European Space Agency’s A5ME (Midlife Evolution) program, for which Astrium ST is prime contractor. Vinci develops three times more thrust than the HM7B engine currently used by Ariane 5, increasing Ariane 5’s payload capacity by 20%. It can be restarted in flight, giving the launcher greater operational flexibility. As prime contractor for the Vinci engine, Snecma leads a team of European partners, including Astrium GmbH for the thrust chamber, Avio for the oxygen turbopump, Volvo for the turbines, and Techspace Aero (Safran group) for the valves.

Snecma (Safran group) is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of aircraft and space engines, with a wide range of propulsion systems on offer. The company designs and builds commercial aircraft engines – including the CFM56 world’s leader – that are powerful, reliable, economical and environmentally friendly, along with military aircraft engines that have always delivered world-class performance. Snecma also develops and produces propulsion systems and equipment for launch vehicles and satellites. EngineLifeâ„¢:, a new brand for Snecma’s service business, offers a complete range of engine maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services to airlines, armed forces and operators.