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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ESA Focuses on Addressing Orbital Debris

As of April 2017, more than 290 break-ups in orbit have been recorded since 1961. Most were explosions of satellites and upper stages – fewer than 10 involved accidental and intentional collisions. (Credit: ESA/ID&Sense/ONiRiXEL)

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.

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Study Examines Effects of Spaceflight on Immune System

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins removes samples from the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI). Blood, saliva and urine samples will be stored in MELFI until they can be transported back to Earth for analysis. (Credit: NASA)

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.

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Video: ESA Looks to Tackle Space Debris Problem

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.

More information
ESA Space Debris http://www.esa.int/debris
ESA CleanSpace http://www.esa.int/CleanSpace

Ukraine Seeking ESA Membership

The chairman of Ukraine’s space agency, Yuri Radchenko. said last week his nation is seeking membership in the European Space Agency (ESA).

“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.

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Dream Chaser to Use Europe’s Next-Generation Docking System

SNC Dream Chaser docks with the International Space Station. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

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.

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European Commission Commits to Minimum Ariane 6, Vega C Orders

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

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.

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Russia Plans to Send Cosmonauts to the Moon

Ergonomic testing has been conducted for the new Federation spacecraft. (Credit: RSC Energia)

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, Tass reports.

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.

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Airbus to Build Second Orion Service Module


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.

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New ESA Astronaut Begins Training

Matthias Maurer (Credit: ESA)

COLOGNE, Germany (ESA PR) — Matthias Maurer, from Germany, has started his astronaut training as part of ESA’s astronaut corps.

Matthias was among the 10 finalists in 2009 selection, and is now undergoing basic training at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

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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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French Prometheus Engine Program Receives ESA Funding

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.

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Asteroid Sleuths Go Back to the Future

Asteroid 2016 WJ1 (Credit: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope)
Asteroid 2016 WJ1 (Credit: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Careful sleuthing through decade-old images has enabled ESA’s asteroid team to decide that a newly discovered space rock poses little threat of hitting Earth any time soon.

Spotting a previously unknown asteroid for the first time always raises the big question: is there a risk it will impact Earth?

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The Year Ahead in Space

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

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.

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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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