Future of Italian Booster Company Avio Deeply Intwined With Ariane 6 Decision

Avio_logoSpace News reports on the status of Italian rocket builder Avio S.p.A., whose future is dependent on its owners efforts to sell it and ESA’s decision later this year on whether to proceed with development of the Ariane 6 launch vehicle.

Italy’s space strategy will be key to the outcome of a scheduled December meeting of European Space Agency ministers on the future of Europe’s launch sector and its participation in the international space station.

The launcher discussions center on the future of the Ariane rocket line and in particular on whether to start immediate development of a next-generation Ariane 6 rocket. The current design of Ariane 6 features four identical solid-propellant stages and one cryogenic upper stage.

The evolution of the Italian-led Vega small-satellite rocket, also mainly powered by solid propellant, is tied to Ariane 6, in which Italy could play a major role with Avio ending up as a provider of solid propellant to Ariane 6 in addition to Vega.

Avio’s owners have been seeking to sell the company for more than a year. Holding up the sale has been the Italian government’s indecision on whether to oblige Avio to retain substantial Italian ownership, in which case the Italian government would need to assist in financing a sale, or to allow its purchase by French contractors.

France has been arguing that Ariane 6’s design should be reconsidered, with liquid stages replacing the solid-fuel ones in the current design. French companies have consider expertise with liquid propulsion systems.

The uncertainty over Avio’s future comes as the Italian space agency ASI was rocked by the resignation of its president, Enrico Saggese, in the midst of a broad-based corruption investigation targeting ASI and the aerospace industry. The allegations involve the misuse of ASI funds and irregularities in contract awards.

Saggese has denied any wrong doing and says his resignation was required so he could defend himself against false charges. He has been replaced on a temporary basis by Aldo Sandulli, a law professor from a Naples university.

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  • Snofru Chufu

    There is no other way as to leave solid rocket propulsion of commercial space launch.
    Italian company may bring alternative proposals based on liquid rocket propulsion.
    I require urgently: No German tax-payer money (via ESA or Arianespace) as stupid subsidy to corrupt Italian industry!

  • Aerospike

    It is interesting to know that France wants to switch to liquid fueled stages. I was assuming that France had been pushing for Ariane 6 to use solid stages, because they require the tech for their submarine based nuclear missiles?

  • Snofru Chufu

    I know that French companies have been thinging about LOX-CH4-propulsion for a quite long time. This concept was already proposed as replacement of Ariane 5’s solid rocket booster.

  • Tonya

    France is the main champion of the Ariane 6 solid design. Some individual French companies have criticised the design because they will lose work, but not CNES the national space agency. There doesn’t seem to be any attribution on the claim in the article, and it doesn’t correlate with anything I’ve read.

  • The official French space agency CNES favors the solid-fuel design for the Ariane 6. However, I have read of some criticism of it by a French space advocacy group that it should use liquids.

    Bob Clark