In a blog post published on Sunday, ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner put down in writing what many people have been thinking for quite a while: that whatever their merits, Europe’s new Ariane 6 and Vega C boosters will not help the continent keep pace with an increasingly competitive launch market.
ESA ministers decided in 2014 to develop a new launcher family comprising Ariane 6 and Vega C, based on the existing Ariane 5 and Vega. The promise to secure autonomous access to space and reduce the price by a factor of 2 proved sufficiently compelling to secure ESA member states’ agreement to finance the development. At that time, I succeeded in placing environmental concerns and the possible development of reusability among the high-level requirements:
Maintain and ensure European launcher competence with a long-term perspective, including possibility of reusability/fly-back.
Ensure possibility to deorbit upper stage directly
Due to time and cost pressure, however, these aspects did not make it onto the agenda for Ariane 6 and Vega C. Yet in the meantime, the world has moved on and today’s situation requires that we re-assess the situation and identify the possible consequences.
In many discussions on the political level, the strategic goal of securing European autonomous access to space has not changed, however there is a growing sense that pressure from global competition is something that needs to be addressed. With Vega C, Ariane 62 and Ariane 64 approaching completion, it seems logical to complete these launchers in order to at least take that major step towards competitiveness.
At the same time, it is essential that we now discuss future solutions, including disruptive ideas. Simply following the kind of approaches seen so far would be expensive and ultimately will fail to convince. Totally new ideas are needed and Europe must now prove it still possesses that traditional strength to surpass itself and break out beyond existing borders.
In this sense, the process of discussing and deciding on a launcher system that eschews traditional solutions can send a powerful signal out into other areas as well. I therefore intend to invite innovative, really interested European players to come together to define possible ways forward.
The Vulcain® 2.1 engine, which will power the main stage of Ariane 6, has completed a successful first test firing
The test was carried out on behalf of ArianeGroup by the DLR (German Aerospace Center) at its Lampoldshausen site
This is a version of the Ariane 5 Vulcain® 2 engine optimized for Ariane 6
Lampoldshausen, Germany, 23 January 2018 (ArianeGroup PR) — The Vulcain® 2.1 engine, developed by ArianeGroup to power the main stage of the Ariane 6 launcher, for which the maiden flight is scheduled for 2020, has just been successfully tested by the DLR (German Aerospace Center) on the P5 test facility at its site in Lampoldshausen, Germany on behalf of ArianeGroup.
EVRY, France 9 (Arianespace PR) — The past year saw Arianespace carry out 11 successful launches; sign 19 additional launch contracts, including three for Vega C and two for Ariane 6; and enter a new governance structure alongside ArianeGroup.
Building on these achievements, Arianespace is targeting a record number of launches in 2018, while actively focusing on the next decade with its Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers. (more…)
EVRY, France (Arianespace PR) — With this latest order, there are now 23 Ariane 5 launchers in production or to be produced, from the PB+ and PC batches. With this latest “PC batch,” the industry confirms its commitment to consolidate the competitiveness of the European launch offer even before the arrival of Ariane 6.
ArianeGroup and its Arianespace subsidiary have announced an order for 10 Ariane 5 ECA launchers. The 10 launch vehicles covered by this “PC batch” will be deployed from the Guiana Space Center beginning in 2020, coming after the launches of 18 Ariane 5s ordered in 2013 (in the “PB+ batch”). This production order represents a total value of more than one billion euros for the European space industry, involving more than 600 companies in 12 European countries* – including 350 small and medium-sized enterprises.
KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — The first full-scale model of the rocket motor that will propel Ariane 6 and Vega-C into orbit has been cast and filled with inert propellant for testing at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
The P120C is the largest solid-propellant rocket motor ever built in one segment.
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.
Avio reports it has completed operational tests for the first P120C sold rocket motor booster casing, which will be used on the new Ariane 6 and Vega C launch vehicles.
“The mechanical tests were carried out using a platform specifically designed and built to simulate the actual conditions of a space launch: pressurization inside the combustion chamber, engine thrust and mechanical loads resulting from the launcher’s operational phases,” the Italian company said in a press release.
“The technological casing, equipped and complete with instrumentation, was subjected to a test cycle up to the maximum engine operating pressure as well as a series of axial load cycles, which demonstrated that the prototype fully corresponded to engineering predictions for its mechanical behaviour,” the company added.
Vega C is set for its first launch in 2019. Ariane 6 is scheduled for the following year.
The “Maturity Gate 6.1” industrialization review was held March 27 to April 20, 2017, among Airbus Safran Launchers, its industrial partners and independent experts
Based on the positive outcome of this review, production of the Ariane 6 ground qualification models has been green-lighted
The first flight of Ariane 6 is scheduled 2020
TOULOUSE, France (Airbus Safran Launchers PR) — With “Maturity Gate 6.1”, Airbus Safran Launchers and its industrial partners have passed a major milestone in the development of Ariane 6, under contract with the European Space Agency (ESA).
The review confirmed that the maturity of the industrialization of Ariane 6 is sufficient to begin production of the ground qualification models for the future European launcher, in accordance with the objectives of the program.
PARIS (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace shareholders voted unanimously to convert the launch operator and subsidiary of Airbus Safran Launchers to an SAS (simplified joint-stock company) at the company’s Annual General Meeting, held in Paris on Monday, March 27.
The modification aims to streamline and modernize Arianespace’s governance to achieve greater responsiveness, facilitate relationships with industrial prime contractors, and be coherent with the new shareholder structure of Arianespace Participation.
As it ramps up development of the Ariane 6, Airbus Safran Launchers is looking for a guarantee from European governmental bodies to order a set number of flights per year.
The company estimates that European government demand for launches accounts for only 27 percent of Arianespace’s launch activity, with the rest coming from the commercial sector. The U.S. market is 65-percent government demand, going largely to domestic launch providers, and the Russian market is 76-percent government, according to Airbus Safran Launchers numbers.
“The target now is to try to federate the European Commission, ESA, Eumetsat and national agencies for similar applications so that we organize a production order to be awarded to Arianespace as quickly as possible in order to give European industry a minimum critical mass for production of Ariane 6, and the same for Vega C,” [CEO Alain] Charmeau explained.
He said Airbus Safran Launchers is seeking a commitment of five Ariane 6 launches per year, and believes a commitment of two Vega C launches a year for Italy’s Avio would constitute enough demand to provide stability. Charmeau said demand for launches of European satellites is rising and should make this an attainable target.
“We anticipate a slight increase in institutional requirements in line with the increasing space budget in Europe, both at the European Commission level and ESA level, which means that there will be more programs, more satellites and therefore more launch services,” he said.
While Elon Musk and SpaceX have been dominating the media spotlight with their spectacular Falcon 9 first-stage landings and even more spectacular launch pad firexplanomaly, Arianespace has quietly went about the task of putting satellites into orbit and signing new launch contracts.
LUCERNE, Switzerland (DLR PR) — The highest decision-making body of the European Space Agency (ESA) met this year on 1 and 2 December at the Culture and Convention Centre (KKL) in Lucerne, Switzerland, to set the financial and programme-based course for European space travel for the coming years. Ministers in charge of space in Europe last came together exactly two years ago on 2 December 2014 in Luxembourg.
The German Federal Government was represented by Brigitte Zypries, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Brigitte Zypries, who is also aerospace coordinator, was supported by Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Executive Board and Gerd Gruppe, Member of the DLR Executive Board responsible for the Space Administration, which, in close collaboration with the BMWi, prepared the German position for the ESA Council meeting at ministerial level. (more…)
PARIS (Arianespace PR) — On Wednesday, November 30, 2016, Airbus Safran Launchers and the CNES French space agency announced that Airbus Safran Launchers is acquiring the stake in Arianespace held by CNES.
Airbus Safran Launchers, a joint venture between Airbus Defence and Space and Safran, becomes the majority shareholder in Arianespace, with 74% of its share capital. The stakes held by the other shareholders, from the European launcher industry, remain unchanged.
Ministers from 22 ESA member countries approved a multi-year spending plan of €10.3 billion ($11 billion) for the European space agency, a reduction from the €11 billion ($11.74 billion) that Director General Jan Dietrich Woerner had sought.
The budget includes an extension of the International Space Station to 2020 to 2024. ESA was the last of the international partners to approve the extension after the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada.