ESA Signs First Ariane 6 Contract for Galileo Launches

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: ESA–David Ducros,)

PARIS, 15 September 2017 (ESA PR) — Four of the latest set of Galileo navigation satellites will be launched on Ariane 6 rockets – ESA’s first contract to use Europe’s new vehicle.

The launches are scheduled between the end of 2020 and mid-2021, using two Ariane 62 rockets – the configuration of Europe’s next-generation launch vehicle that is best suited to haul the two 750 kg navigation satellites into their orbits at 23 222 km altitude.

Under development, Ariane 6 is Europe’s newest launcher, designed to extend guaranteed access to space for Europe at a competitive price. It will operate in two configurations, depending on customer needs: Ariane 62 is fitted with two strap-on boosters while Ariane 64 has four.

“Ariane 6 is not only in full development, but it will soon be put to use,” notes Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA’s Director of Space Transportation. “This contract is a key step in the upcoming ramp-up phase of Ariane 6.”

The Galileos have so far either been launched in pairs by Soyuz from French Guiana or in fours by Ariane 5.

A new Ariane 5 flight is scheduled for the end of this year, to add four more satellites to the 18-strong constellation already in orbit. This month saw the arrival of the first elements of the rocket in French Guiana, transported aboard the MN Colibri roll-on/roll-off ship.

The contract specifies the decision to use Ariane 62 is subject to the vehicle’s development schedule, with Soyuz available as an alternative. A final choice will be made at the end of 2018, two years before the first launch.

Galileo is Europe’s own satellite navigation system, providing an array of positioning, navigation and timing services to Europe and the world.

A further eight Galileo ‘Batch 3’ satellites were ordered last June, to supplement the 26 built so far.

With 18 satellites now in orbit, Galileo began initial services on 15 December 2016, the first step towards full operations.

Further launches will continue to build the constellation, which will gradually improve system performance and availability worldwide.

The launch contract with Arianespace was signed by Paul Verhoef, ESA’s Director of the Galileo Programme and Navigation-related Activities, and Stéphane Israel, Arianespace’s Chief Executive Officer. ESA signed the contract on behalf of the EU represented by the European Commission – Galileo’s owner. The Commission and ESA have a delegation agreement by which ESA acts as design and procurement agent on behalf of the Commission.

  • Cool blue racing stripe. And congrats on the first launch contract!

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, but they still toss them away like in the old days. Recycling first stages is being kind to the Earth 🙂

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    This is going to be fun to watch. How many state funded expendable launch systems will be operated for how long before they finally come around to paying the price as shown in SX’s “Blooper Reels”. Launch and learn, or poach SX employees. If the industry does not come around and pay the price, Elon is going to have make some serious decisions about letting people go. Nevermind a union, does he dare let that human talent out into the wild so long as they have a monopoly on reusable launch vehicles?

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    There has been plenty of talent move between SpaceX and Blue already.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Interesting. I’m really looking forward to seeing Blue’s development cycle. If they develop New Glenn the same way they have Sheppard it will be interesting to see if it’s a net savings, or if the requisite sacrifice to gremlins brings the cost in line with the disposable approach.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Well it would be kind of strange if ESA hadn’t signed up as the first launch customer. After all, this whole exercise is about assurance for EU space launch.

  • ThomasLMatula

    But aren’t European nations suppose to be reducing their carbon footprint? Consider how much CO2 they will be adding to the atmosphere building new boosters and shipping them across the Atlantic for each launch. Where are the out cries from the environmentalists?

  • IamGrimalkin

    I think the actual launching of the rocket would have more environmental impact than the transport of it.

    The Ariane 6 runs on hydrogen, which has a much high fuel-efficiency than other chemical fuels because of its high exhaust velocity.

    The solid side boosters it uses may give off toxic fumes, though.

  • IamGrimalkin

    Is it? Recycling first stages uses a large portion of the fuel, and I would be surprised if making the rocket is more environmentally damaging than launching it.

    Unless you are recovering it with parachutes, of course.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Are you adding up all the climate impacts from mining the materials, processing them, manufacturing the boosters, etc? But seriously it does show an outdated mindset of wasting resources 🙂

  • IamGrimalkin

    If you recycle the first stages as scrap you don’t need to worry about materials impact, and you don’t need VTVL reuse for that.

    But regardless, when you work it out, it takes 3 times its mass in oil to produce aluminium (the vast majority of the environmental impact of aluminium is from its production from aluminium oxide). Most rocket stages have 10% of their mass in fuel, so fuel is a bigger contribution.

  • windbourne

    Germany continues to add more coal as do a number of other European nations.

    But some environmentalists really will gripe about rocket launches.

  • windbourne

    ?? Huh. IIRC, fuel/oxydizer is something like 70% of a vehicles weight.

  • ThomasLMatula

    But no one recycles the first stages as scrap, they just let them rot on the ocean floor. 🙂

    BTW its fuel is LOX/LH so the vast majority of the output is H2O. Of course water is a greenhouse gas. Or are you figuring the CO2 impact of producing, shipping and storing the fuel for it?

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, the anti-nuke folks won, and so those nations are going to now add to the problem of global warming, instead of solving it.

  • IamGrimalkin

    I was using the carbon footprint of an equivalent mass of oil, since hydrogen is cracked from fossil fuels. I’ve actually realised that probably wouldn’t be the best approach, since hydrogen is lighter than oil, so the launch should actually have a higher carbon footprint than that. I’ll work out the exact footprint later, but essentially, two molecules of hydrogen give off one molecule of carbon dioxide in production, since when hydrogen is cracked from methane the remaining carbon is released as carbon dioxide.

    Hydrogen is cleaner than methane, though, because hydrogen has a higher exhaust velocity, so you need less of it to launch than an equivalent methane launch (fuel amount is exponential with the ratio of the Δv to exhaust velocity).

  • IamGrimalkin

    Look up the gross vs net mass of the airene 6.

  • Jeff2Space

    LH2 is a quite dubious fuel choice for lower stages due to its pathetically low density. Because of this far larger tanks are required for LH2 compared with hydrocarbon fuels (liquid methane or kerosene). For upper stages (which are necessarily smaller and operate in vacuum), LH2’s superior ISP makes a lot of sense.

    Besides, industrial LH2 is typically produced from petroleum products because it’s currently far cheaper than producing it via other means (like hydrolysis of water).

  • Jeff2Space

    You’re ignoring the pathetically low density of LH2. What you want to track is the efficiency of the stage not the ISP of the engines. LH2 powered first stages necessarily have a higher dry mass than kerosene powered first stages.