ESA Council Agrees Resolution on Ariane 6 and Vega-C Exploitation and Future Space Transportation

Artist’s view of the European launcher family. Shown from left to right: Ariane 5, Vega, the two-booster Ariane 6 (A62), Vega-C, the four-booster Ariane 6 (A64). (Credit: ESA – D. Ducros)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Member States have agreed upon the boundary conditions for Europe’s upcoming exploitation of Ariane 6 and Vega-C and request ESA to propose a roadmap for new and innovative space transportation solutions for the next decade and a framework for associated short cycle demonstrations.

The Resolution agreed upon by ESA Member States mid-August sets the conditions for the first three years of stabilised exploitation of Europe’s new launch vehicles, Ariane 6 and Vega-C at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. 

Driven by the launch needs of European institutions and taking stock of the volatile context of the worldwide launch services market, Member States have converged on a stable and secure basis for the exploitation of these new launch vehicles to provide guaranteed access to space for Europe in the coming years. 

The revised stabilised exploitation model is based on a European institutional launch service demand of four Ariane 6 vehicles (three Ariane 62 with two boosters and one Ariane 64 with four boosters, or two positions on a dual payload launch on Ariane 64) and two Vega-C per year on average. Price conditions for the associated standard launch service have also been agreed upon. 

Member States have also established a basis for maintaining strategic industrial capabilities through options to serve either additional institutional launches or a higher commercial demand. Corresponding financial decisions by Member States are planned to be taken at the occasion of the Council Meeting at Ministerial Level at the end of 2022. European institutional customers of launch services will also need to commit to launch on ESA-developed launchers.

In addition, the ESA Council also requested the ESA Director General to agree with the European Union on a European flight ticket initiative to regularly demonstrate and validate in orbit missions of less than 200 kg on launch services with proven capabilities to be selected on a competitive basis. 

To prepare for the future, ESA Member States have further tasked ESA to propose the next generation of European space transportation solutions required for the next decade. To that end, ESA is asked to create a frame for short-cycle demonstration of such space transportation solutions for approval at the occasion of the upcoming Council Meeting at Ministerial Level. Preparation is under way including through ESA’s New European Space Transportation Solutions initiative (NESTS) initial studies.

“Considering the continuously changing space transportation market, the agreed boundary conditions ensure a stable reference for the successful exploitation of Ariane 6 and Vega-C to serve European institutional needs and the commercial market.

“At the same time, Member States have given ESA the important mandate to propose a roadmap for new and innovative European space transportation solutions for the next decade and beyond. In addition, we will work, together with the European Union to foster regular opportunities for small missions to be launched on flight-proven European launch vehicles, selected on a competitive basis,” commented Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation.