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.
DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — With more than 750 000 pieces of dangerous debris now orbiting Earth, the urgent need for coordinated international action to ensure the long-term sustainability of spaceflight is a major finding from Europe’s largest-ever conference on space debris.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Getting sick isn’t fun for anyone, but it could be especially taxing for crew members aboard the International Space Station. Protecting crew health is important as NASA prepares for long duration, deep-space missions. Functional Immune, a new investigation taking place in the orbiting laboratory, studies previously uninvestigated areas of the body’s immune response and if spaceflight alters a crew member’s susceptibility to disease.
Video Caption: Earth is surrounded by a cloud of space debris. This material ranges from dead satellites and rocket stages to fragments of material and even flecks of paint… and all this junk could do enormous damage to working satellites.
During 18–21 April, experts from around the world will meet at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany for the 7th European Conference on Space Debris.
Delegates will discuss the extent of the debris problem and what can be done to ensure that satellites we rely on – providing us with services such as navigation, TV and weather forecasting – can operate safely in the future.
Talks will address acute issues like current practices in debris avoidance, novel concepts for removing debris, and the deployment of large constellations of several thousand satellites for telecommunications.
The conference will be opened by ESA Director General Jan Woerner and NASA’s former orbital debris chief scientist, Donald Kessler.
On 18 April and 21 April, live webcasts will cover the keynote address and press briefing, respectively. Details via esa.int/debris.
“Today, we held talks with the Head of the European Space Agency on this matter,” he explained. “The strategy and the tactics on the matter have been worked out. It is required to fulfill a number of conditions to become a member of the European Space Agency.”
He said the membership could be secured within “a reasonable” timeframe.
PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA and a team of European industrial contractors led by QinetiQ have finalised an agreement with Sierra Nevada Corporation for the use of Europe’s International Berthing Docking Mechanism on the Dream Chaser spaceplane.
There’s was some good news this week for Airbus Safran Launchers and Arianespace, which were looking for a guaranteed number of orders for their new boosters.
The European Commission will commit to buying at least five Ariane 6 and two Vega C launches per year when both rockets are in operation, Elzbieta Bienkowska, the European Commission’s lead space commissioner, said Wednesday….
“We will aggregate our institutional launches to support those two launchers,” she said…
Bienkowska also said Europe’s confidence in the suitability of Ariane 6 and Vega C, both of which are single-use rockets, remains unshaken by the early success of SpaceX and Blue Origin in demonstrating their reusable rockets.
“We observe very closely the ongoing revolution in the launcher market, especially here in the United States, around the principle of reusability,” she said. “Europe’s answer is the development of the next-generation of cost effective, reliable and competitive European launchers: Ariane 6 and Vega C.”
The launch orders will be aggregated from the European Commission, ESA, Eumetsat and various national space agencies.
Ariane 6, which is the successor to Ariane 5, is expected to begin flight tests in 2020. The booster is designed to lift payloads weighing up to 10.5 tonnes into geostationary transfer orbit.
The Vega C will be an upgraded version of the Vega booster, which can place payloads weighing up to 2.5 tonnes into orbit. The Vega C’s capacity will be increased by at least 300 kg. The booster will use a first stage engine being developed for Ariane 6.
RSC Energia has launched the development of a new human spacecraft named Federatsiya (Federation) that will replace the 40-year-old Soyuz vehicles and enable Russia to send cosmonauts to the moon, Tassreports.
Federation will be capable of carrying crews of four into Earth orbit and deep space on missions of up to 30 days. The spacecraft could stay in space up to a year if docked with a space station, which is double the duration of the Soyuz spacecraft.
The new spacecraft could be a key element in what appears to be an emerging plan to place a space station in lunar orbit. NASA is exploring such a facility to test technologies required for sending astronauts to Mars.
BREMEN, Germany (ESA PR) — A European Service Module will power NASA’s Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon and back in 2018, and now work has started on a second mission, this time to carry astronauts.
Set for launch as early as 2021, this will be the first mission since 1972 to take humans out of low orbit – and European hardware will provide propulsion, electrical power, water, thermal control and atmosphere for up to four crew members.
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.
SpaceNews reports the French-funded Prometheus reusable rocket program will be receiving developing funding from ESA.
A small team of engineers from Airbus Safran Launchers and the French space agency CNES have poured a few million euros since 2015 into a liquid oxygen and-methane-fueled reusable engine dubbed Prometheus. ESA leaders agreed during December’s ministerial conference in Lucerne, Switzerland, to make Prometheus part of the agency’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program, or FLPP.
In an interview with SpaceNews, Airbus Safran Launchers CEO Alain Charmeau said FLPP is allocating 85 million euros ($91 million) to Prometheus to fund research and development leading to a 2020 test firing. Now that Prometheus is an ESA program, Charmeau expects more countries will get involved….
The target price for a Prometheus engine is 1 million euros, one-tenth the cost of the Ariane 6’s liquid-oxygen and liquid-hydrogen Vulcain 2.1 engine. The Prometheus program is making extensive use of new technologies and production methods, including 3-D printing, and a large amount of technical design work already completed in France and Germany, according to an Airbus Safran Launchers presentation.
Charmeau said the market dynamics that have dissuaded the company from reusability in the past are still the same, but the company wants to lay the foundation for long-term launcher development.
It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.
A New Direction for NASA?
NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.
Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.
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.