ESA Council Approves Completion of Ariane 6, Transition from Ariane 5

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

PARIS — 14 June 2018 (ESA PR) — The ESA Council met today in Paris to discuss the path towards the future exploitation of Ariane 6.

In view of the progress made in the Ariane 6 programme, Participating States have decided on the completion of the development up to full operational capability and agreed to fund industrial incentives associated with the development of Ariane 6 and P120C solid rocket motor.

Participating States also committed to start with the first step of the Ariane 6 and P120C Transition Programme. This programme supports the evolution from Europe’s Ariane 5 to full operational capability of Ariane 6.

Ariane 6 is Europe’s new-generation launcher, designed to secure guaranteed access to space for Europe at an affordable price for European institutional users. It will operate in two configurations: Ariane 62 is fitted with two P120C strap-on boosters while Ariane 64 has four. Ariane 6’s maiden flight is planned for mid-2020.

P120C is the largest carbon-fibre solid propellant booster ever built in one segment at almost 13.5 m long and about 3.4 m in diameter. Two boosters will be used on Ariane 6’s maiden flight in 2020.

  • Chip Snyder

    FYI psssst your headline copy is incorrect (should be Ariane “6”

  • Zed_WEASEL

    The Ariane 6 seems more like the Curtiss P-36 Hawk and the Brewster F2A Buffalo than those aircrafts’ successors. Especially with the solid motor boosters.

  • envy

    The competition between Vulcan and Ariane 6 for dual-manifested GTO commsat payloads should be interesting. Both look like they will do 12 tonnes to GTO for about $110 million or so.

    That’s close to Falcon 9’s 5.5 tonnes for $62 million for a single launch, though that might be closer $50 million in reality.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    You really think the Vulcan 544 with the 4 solid motor boosters and the quad Centaur upper stage will be $110M or so? Thinking it is more like $155M+.

    Conceivably a triple-manifested launch is possible, if you used the mono core Vulcan Heavy 564 that can lift 16 tonnes to GTO.

    Of course there have to be large GEO comsat payloads available for both the Ariane 6 and the Vulcan in the mid 2020s. The outlook seems to be fewer such payloads by the number of comsat orders placed recently.

  • envy

    Tory Bruno confirmed that there will be multiple sizes of upper stage on Vulcan. Those might have different engine counts, e.g 2 RL-10 on the initial Centuar 5 and 4 RL-10 on ACES once it is introduced. And I think Vulcan can do 11 or 12 t to GTO with a 532 configuration.

    But you’re right about the GTO commsat launch market shrinking, or at least holding. That might make it harder for LVs that need both dual-manifest and multiple launches per year in order to be financially viable.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    When did Bruno stated this?

    It is doubtful IMO that anything other than one size of Centaur-V tankage and 4 x RL-10Cs will be developed later on. And by extension the ACES, since the only difference between the Centaur-V and ACES is the IVF components.

    ULA don’t appears to have the development budget required for different upper stage versions from it’s parents. Even IVF is iffy with it’s planned introduction after the mid 2020s.

    AIUI the Vulcan 564 have to be developed first to phased out the Delta IV Heavy for NRO missions. Otherwise ULA either have to extended the Delta IV Heavy production run or conceded those missions to others.

  • envy


    Actually, a Vulcan 562 could almost certainly meet all the EELV2 requirements. The 564 can put 16 tonnes to GTO, which is substantially more than needed for the 6500 kg to GSO requirement.

    Maybe the new 3D printed RL-10 is cheap enough to trade with SRBs. If a BE-4 is only $8 million it doesn’t make sense for ULA to be paying $15-$20 million for RL-10. SRBs are around $6-7 million. So adding 2x RL-10 and dropping 3 SRBs could save money (i.e. a 534 is cheaper than a 562), and additionally give extra high end performance in the form of the 564.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    If you look at the chart in the first tweet. It shows that the Vulcan Heavy 564 only does about 7 mT (6800 kg according to another source) to GSO; misleading labeled as GEO as in direct GEO injection. The 6500 kg mission requirement to GSO was previously done by the Delta IV Heavy, which is rated at 6750 kg to GSO with the revised RS-68A engines.

    The Vulcan Heavy 564 requires the stretch Centaur-V. So that is going to be the only version be introduces in service IMO.

    Doubtful that ULA will get the development budget for different tankage versions from the parents IMO. Even if Bruno wants it.

  • envy

    GEO (which is a specific subset of GSO) payload is highly sensitive to upper stage dry mass, such that a Vulcan 562 could actually have MORE payload, or at least the same, as a 564 with a larger and heavier upper stage. It depends on the specific optimizations of each stage.

    The graphic in Bruno’s tweet does not explicitly show 4 engines or call it ACES or 564.

    So at this point a 2-engine version is entirely plausible, particularly with Bruno saying there will be two sizes. You might be right about ULA not getting the funding to develop ACES or two variants, but in that case I expect that they might only develop the 2-engine variant since it will be cheaper and still meet EELV requirements. The 4 engine is needed for very heavy LEO and GTO payloads, but those don’t exist at the moment.