Rocket Motor for Ariane 6 and Vega-C is Cast for Testing

The first full-scale model of the P120C rocket motor that will propel Ariane 6 and Vega-C into orbit was cast and filled with inert propellant for intensive testing in Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana in September 2017. (Credit: ESA)

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.

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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.

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Avio Tests New PC120C Solid Rocket Motor Booster Casing

P-120C solid rocket motor booster casing. (Credit: Avio)

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.

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Airbus Safran Launchers Begins Production of Ariane 6 Ground Qualification Models

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

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Arianespace Streamlines Corporate Governance

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.

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Airbus Safran Launchers Seeks Guaranteed Number of Ariane 6 Flights

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)

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.

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Arianespace Signed 13 Launch Contracts in Past Year

Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)
Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)

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.

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USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

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The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

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Germany Provides Approximately 2 Billion Euros to ESA Space Projects

Dlr_logo1LUCERNE, 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.
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Airbus Safran Launchers Buys CNES Shares of Arianespace

Arianespace_logoPARIS (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.

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ESA Approves 10.3 Billion Euro Budget; ISS Extended, ExoMars Funded

ESA logoMinisters 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.

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Airbus Safran Launchers, ESA Sign Confirmation of Ariane 6 Program

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)
Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)
  • This amendment to the agreement signed in August 2015 between Airbus Safran Launchers and ESA commits the entire €2.4 billion planned for the development and production of the new European launcher. i.e., €1.7 billion to be deployed between now and 2023.
  • On 13 September, the ESA Member States unanimously confirmed the continuation of the Ariane 6 program, following an in-depth review of the program’s technical and financial situations.

Issy-les-Moulineaux, France (Airbus Safran Launchers PR) — The European Space Agency and Airbus Safran Launchers, industrial prime contractor of the Ariane 6 launcher, have today signed the amendment to the agreement of 12 August 2015 committing the entire €2.4 billion planned for the development, production and operation of the two versions of the Ariane 6 launcher, Ariane 62 and 64.

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Creation of Airbus Safran Lauchers Finalized

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)
Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)

AMSTERDAM/PARIS (Airbus/Safran PR) – Airbus Group SE (stock exchange symbol: AIR) and Safran (stock exchange symbol: SAF) will finalise today the creation of their Airbus Safran Launchers 50/50 Joint Venture, which becomes a fully-fledged operational company.

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France Wants European Support for New Rocket Engine

CNES_logoFrench space minister Thierry Mandon is seeking European support in developing a reusable, liquid-oxygen, liquid-methane engine called Promethee (Prometheus) designed to compete with SpaceX.

Mandon’s calling the propulsion system both Promethee, French for Prometheus, and Prometheus presages a French effort this December to persuade European Space Agency governments to fund the new propulsion system.

Jean-Marc Astorg, director of launchers at the French space agency, CNES, said during the Mandon briefing that 5-7 Prometheus engines could power the first stage of a future Ariane rocket, each costing 1 million euros ($1.13 million) apiece, compared to the 10-million-euro cost of the single Vulcain cryogenic engine that now powers the Ariane 5 first stage along with two solid-fueled strap-on boosters.

Vulcain is powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

The Ariane 6 rocket – designed to be one-half the cost of Ariane 5 – is on track to a 2020 launch. It will use a single Vulcain as well, with two or four solid-fueled boosters depending on mission requirements. Ariane 6’s second stage is powered by the Vinci engine, which is also fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

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Euro Updates: Ariane 6 Price Promises, SES Embraces SpaceX & Orbital Servicing

Artist's impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Updates from the Old World: European officials say they can beat SpaceX’s launch pricing four years from now.

Europe’s next-generation Ariane 6 rocket remains on track for a 2020 first launch with a cost structure allowing the heavier Ariane 64 version to advertise per-kilogram prices below today’s Space X Falcon 9, European government and industry officials said April 6.

They said they saw no roadblocks to the 2020 first-flight date despite what they described as noncritical delays that have no impact on the rocket’s design, performance or cost targets.

These issues include a delay of several months in the ramp-up of Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), which is the Ariane 6 prime contractor, due to tax issues in France, and an extended antitrust review by the European Commission of ASL’s plan to become the dominant shareholder of the Arianespace commercial launch consortium.

Meanwhile, satellite fleet operator SES is embracing on-orbit servicing and SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9.

SES said specifically it had opened negotiations with two companies — industry officials said they are Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK’s Vivisat and MDA Corp. of Canada — “to have each extend the life of one of our satellites once their services are operational.”

The two in-orbit servicing projects take different approaches. Orbital ATK’s Vivisat launches a small vehicle that latches onto the target communications satellite and stays attached to it, providing fuel. MDA Corp. has designed an in-orbit fuel depot that would visit satellites, fuel them and then leave to service other customers….

ES has said that, for the right price, it is willing to be the inaugural customer using a refurbished Falcon 9 first stage “to show our commitment to reusable rockets.”

SES plans to launch seven satellites by late 2017– three in 2016 and four in 2017 – of which five are slated for SpaceX Falcon 9 missions, with two on Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket. The first of the seven, SES-9, was successfully launched in March aboard a Falcon 9.