CNES, ArianeGroup Move Forward on Themis Reusable Rocket Project

Themis demonstrator comes in for a landing. (Credit: ArianeGroup/CNES)

PARIS (CNES PR) — The joint innovation team of CNES and ArianeGroup tested the first elements of the future Themis demonstrator in 2020. The project is gaining momentum in 2021, when the ArianeWorks device has entered its second phase.

For ArianeWorks , the joint innovation accelerator created by CNES and ArianeGroup to work on the launchers of the future, season 2 has just started. At the end of the 18-month pilot phase, and in view of the positive results of the first achievements, the mechanism was extended for a further 18-month period with increased resources and renewed support from external partners. 

Among the novelties, the Themis project now has three work platforms on the CNES and ArianeGroup sites. This confirmation follows the start, at the end of 2020, of the first test operations in the historic Vernon area, under a contract with ESA. These full-scale filling / emptying tests on a tank constitute an elementary step which allows the equipment, ground resources and operations to be broken in, before launching more complex projects according to the iterative methodology of the project. 

 We start with very simple things that gradually move us towards our end goal, which is the development of a real reusable rocket stage. The work area sees material germinate every month: this is a good sign of the dynamics of the Themis program.

— Jérôme Vila, animator of ArianeWorks

Toward the First Firing of Prometheus

The pace of innovation and experimentation remains sustained in 2021 along the ArianeWorks roadmap. A new contract has been signed as part of the French space recovery plan , and additional activities will soon be offered to the European Union. Following on from the first tests, the team is currently carrying out technological work and demonstrations in preparation for these next steps. The year will also be marked by the receipt of the first copy of the Prometheus engine to be fitted to Themis. 

“This year, we are planning the first ignition tests on the installation foreshadowing the future floor ,” explains Jérôme Vila. “This approach departs from the classic development cycle, where test campaigns on the engine test bench precede the first integration on the vehicle. Here, the 2 stages will be concomitant: our philosophy is to try to go as quickly as possible while accepting the risk of making mistakes, and to multiply the opportunities for testing.”

Finally, in terms of engineering, the ArianeWorks team will formalize the ecodesign objectives associated with Themis this year . The future generation of launchers will be inexpensive and reusable; they will also have to be environmentally efficient. It remains to quantify this environmental performance, which will be done during the year.

Did You Know?

ArianeWorks brings together 15 employees from CNES and ArianeGroup around new agile working methods. Initially, the team devotes itself almost entirely to the development of the Themis demonstrator, which foreshadows the launcher of the future by 2030. But in the longer term, it aims to put its innovation methods inspired by New Space to the fore. service of other missions.