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.
COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The Columbus space laboratory began its journey into space on 7 February 2008 and has now been the scientific heart of European research on the International Space Station (ISS) for ten years. In microgravity, researchers gain unique insights from a wide range of disciplines from astrophysics, through materials research, to psychology and medical treatment options. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) supervised the development and construction of the ISS module on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), is involved with experiments at a research level and runs the operation from its Columbus Control Center in Oberpfaffenhofen.
NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (Airbus PR) – The European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus have signed a commercial partnership (PPP) agreement for construction, launch and operations of the commercial “Bartolomeo” platform. Airbus’ new external payload hosting facility will be attached to the European Columbus module of the International Space Station (ISS) from mid-2019.
Swindon, England (UKSA PR) — The UK Space Agency has awarded more than £4 million to Spire Global to demonstrate cutting-edge space technology including ‘parallel super-computing’.
Today’s announcement by UK Government ministers Lord Henley and Lord Duncan, gives the green light to missions designed to showcase the technology and put UK companies into orbit faster and at a lower cost. The UK is the largest funder of the European Space Agency’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Satellites (ARTES) programme, which transforms research into successful commercial projects.
PARIS, 2 February 2018 (ESA PR) — ESA’s first mission of the year was launched today: GomX-4B is the Agency’s most advanced technology-tester yet, featuring a hyperspectral camera and tiny thrusters to manoeuvre thousands of kilometres from its near-twin to try out their radio link.
These CubeSats are built around standard 10×10 cm units by GomSpace in Denmark. As ‘six-unit’ CubeSats they are as big as cereal boxes – but double the size of their predecessor GomX-3, released from the International Space Station in 2015.
SWINDON, UK (UKSA PR) — Grants are being offered to the UK space sector to come up with innovative new technology.
The grants of €200,000 have been organised by the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency as a new way of applying for funding for technology developments under ESA’s General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) which has existed for nearly 25 years.
Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive at the UK Space Agency, said:
“The GSTP has proven to be a successful way of building know-how and capabilities in the industry and this latest funding will help keep the UK at the forefront of technological innovation.
PARIS (ESA PR) — Imagine sending a spacecraft the size of an airline cabin bag to the Moon – what would you have it do? ESA issued that challenge to European teams last year, and two winners have now been chosen.
The Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter, or Lumio for short, would circle over the far side of the Moon to detect bright impact flashes during the lunar night, mapping meteoroid bombardments as they occur.
The other, the Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter, or VMMO, would focus on a permanently shadowed crater near the lunar south pole, searching out deposits of water ice and other volatiles of interest to future colonists, while also measuring lunar radiation.
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.
GUILDFORD, England (Earth-i PR) — British ‘New Space’ pioneer Earth-i has confirmed that the pre-production prototype satellite of its upcoming satellite constellation was successfully launched earlier today.
The new commercial constellation – which the company announced is called Vivid-i – will be the first of its kind to provide full-colour video; and the first European-owned constellation able to provide both video and still images.
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…)