Raumfahrt - ESA´s zukünftige Ariane 6 -Update-2



Ariane 6 project 'in good shape'

Artist's impression: The schedule calls for a maiden flight in 2020
The dream is moving to reality. That was the message from European Space Agency boss, Jan Woerner, on Wednesday as he discussed the Ariane 6 rocket.
The director general was touring the Airbus Safran Launchers facilities at Les Mureaux, France, where much of the future vehicle will be integrated.
Reporters were shown the progress being made towards a 2020 maiden flight.
This included a spin around the inside of a digital model of the final design for the rocket, 3D glasses supplied.
"Ariane 6 is today not just a dream, not just a plan," Mr Woerner said.
"We are working on it, not only by developing and producing the different parts of the rocket, but also the launch base in Kourou, French Guiana, is being cleared [to make way for the construction of the new pad].
"We're in good shape."
Ariane 6 - A new European rocket for 2020
Next-generation rocket will be modular in design, offering two variants
Vehicles will lean on their Ariane 5 heritage but cost less to build
A new upper-stage engine (Vinci), already in development, will be used
Solid fuel boosters from the Vega rocket will provide additional power
A62 will tend to launch medium-sized government/science missions
A64 will launch the big commercial telecoms satellites, two at a time
In the short term, the rocket will be a one-time, expendable vehicle
Ariane 6 is Europe's response to the hard competitive prices now being offered to satellite operators to launch their spacecraft.
This price pressure is coming principally from the US and the California-based SpaceX company.
Its Falcon 9 rocket is undercutting the venerable Ariane 5, and so Europe intends to hit back with its next-generation solution, Ariane 6.
The aim is to halve the 5's cost-per-kilo for putting satellites in orbit.
Industrially, this requires a transformation of the production process: fewer people, streamlined ways of working, and new fabrication techniques.
On a component level this is evidenced already by the hot-fire testing of 3D printed parts for rocket engines, but also on the larger systems level with the coming of a completely new integration hall at Les Mureaux on the outskirts of Paris.
3D-printed engine parts can be made in days, whereas the old components took months sometimes
At the moment, the only thing you can see is bare earth. But in time, there will be a low-rise building where Ariane 6 core rocket stages will be assembled in a horizontal workflow. That is a major departure on the 5 cores, which have always been prepared while standing tall.
The intention now is to take some of the lessons learned from other production lines, such as in the automotive industry.
"It will be a much lower building, with no crane - so easier to maintain," explained Patrick Bonguet, the director of the Ariane 6 programme at Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL).
"When you integrate horizontally, you make the situation transparent on the shop floor. You see the problems and you can bring the support if something is missing.
"And the third element is that you can create flow. All the pieces move at the same rhythm. All over Europe, all the pieces will move once per month. Why once per month? Because we will be having 12 launches per year," he told BBC News.
Not everything is quite as cosy in the new house of Ariane as space officials would like, however. There is the unsettled issue of governance.
The updated ways of working have necessitated a joint venture be established between Airbus and rocket engine manufacturer Safran. But this has prompted a review by the French government, which needs to be sure the tax implications of the union are in order.
Likewise, the European Commission wants to examine the ASL joint venture's desire to buy a controlling share in Arianespace, the company that sells Ariane launches.
The EC is concerned there should be no conflicts of interest - and preferential treatment - when Airbus, also a satellite manufacturer, wants to buy a ride on an Airbus Safran rocket.
Until these governance matters are resolved, the new joint venture cannot assume the 8,000-strong workforce it needs to push on with Ariane 6 development (the venture currently has just 400 individuals on its books). And that could threaten the timeline to 2020.
"Everything is one package," said Alain Charmeau, the CEO of ASL. But then he expressed confidence that it would all sort itself in the next few weeks.
Esa should give its full and final blessing to the Ariane 6 project in the Autumn. Member state ministers will then also meet in December to discuss some possible future evolutions.
This is where the topic of re-usability is likely to be raised. While SpaceX is working on ways of recycling its Falcon 9 first-stages, the Ariane 6 has been designed from the start to follow the traditional one-flight, disposable model.
The design of the Ariane 6 has been "frozen" - no more iterations
Jan Woerner continues to express caution over the idea that there is one "magic formula" for rocket programmes, with no alternatives.
He argues that SpaceX has little choice but to try to recover stages because each of these boosters has nine engines. If the Californian company wants to achieve its stated flight cadence then it absolutely has to re-use some engines, he says. The Ariane core stages, by contrast, have just the one Vulcain engine.
"Ariane is built on solid foundations for Europe; it is the European way," the DG told reporters.
"Of course, we can discuss different ways worldwide, but we need always to look for a way that works for Europe; and it might be different to one that fits to China, India, Japan and the US.
"For us, for the foreseeable future, Ariane 6 is the right solution."
Nonetheless, ministers probably will be asked at their big end-of-year gathering to put some money towards reusability research, to look at technology options.
And by then we should also have some clear indications of how the old rocket will be retired. Esa and ASL want the Ariane 6 fully operational, launching a dozen times a year, by 2023.
"We have some big decisions to take around the end of the year, on the last batch of Ariane 5s and the first batch of Ariane6s, in order to ensure continuity between the two launchers," Mr Charmeau told BBC News.
The Ariane 5 core stages are integrated in the vertical
Quelle: BBC
Update: 13.05.2016

Airbus Safran Launchers: The first test campaign for the Ariane 6 upper stage VINCI® engine has started at the DLR test bench in Lampoldshausen

Airbus Safran launchers have just begun the hot-fire testing campaign for the re-ignitable VINCI® upper stage engine on the P4.1 test bench at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in Lampoldshausen. This is a key milestone for the development of Ariane 6.
The VINCI engine is designed for the upper liquid propulsion module of the launcher, which can be deployed flexibly for a variety of missions. Once ignited, the engine burns for up to 1,000 seconds in development test. This M5R test phase will last until September 2016. Airbus Safran Launchers is the prime contractor for the Ariane 6 launcher whose initial launch is scheduled for 2020.
About Airbus Safran Launchers
The creation of Airbus Safran Launchers opens a new chapter in the history of the launcher industry. Reflecting the joint ambition of Airbus Group and Safran to boost the European space industry to unscaled heights, our new company will develop innovative and competitive solutions by uniting the strengths of two leading contributors to modern launch vehicles. Airbus Safran Launchers is equally owned, combining Airbus Defence and Space’s expertise in launchers (especially in France and Germany), and Safran’s expertise in liquid and solid rocket propulsion.
DLR is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. In addition to its own research, as Germany’s space agency, DLR has been given responsibility by the federal government for the planning and implementation of the German space programme. DLR is also the umbrella organisation for the nation’s largest project management agency.DLR has approximately 8000 employees at 16 locations in Germany: Cologne (headquarters), Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Goettingen, Hamburg, Juelich, Lampoldshausen, Neustrelitz, Oberpfaffenhofen, Stade, Stuttgart, Trauen, and Weilheim. DLR also has offices in Brussels, Paris, Tokyo and Washington D.C.
Update: 3.06.2016
Die zukünftige europäische Trägerrakete Ariane 6 soll im Jahr 2020 zum ersten Mal ins All starten. Damit sie alle Nutzlasten sicher auf ihre Umlaufbahnen bringen kann, müssen auch die Triebwerke für den neuen Träger zuvor ausführlich getestet werden.
Für den Test der Oberstufe der neuen Trägerrakete wird eine neue Anlage am Standort des Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) in Lampoldshausen errichtet: Im Rahmen der Internationalen Luft- und Raumfahrtausstellung ILA in Berlin haben am 2. Juni 2016 die Vorstandsvorsitzende des Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Prof. Pascale Ehrenfreund, und der Generaldirektor der Europäischen Weltraumorganisation (ESA), Prof. Johann-Dietrich Wörner, den Vertrag über Entwicklung und Bau des Prüfstandes P5.2 für das Ariane-Trägerraketenprogramm unterzeichnet. In dieser Anlage können gesamte Oberstufen getestet werden - ein Alleinstellungsmerkmal in Europa.
"Die Ariane 6 ist die Zukunft des europäischen Raumtransports - und das DLR ist dabei ein unverzichtbarer Partner. Vor dem Erstflug der Ariane 6 wird die Oberstufe der neuen Trägerrakete in Lampoldshausen auf Herz und Nieren geprüft. Damit übernimmt das DLR eine verantwortungsvolle, zentrale Aufgabe, die Ariane 6 so sicher wie ihren Vorgänger zu machen", erklärte Prof. Ehrenfreund, Vorstandsvorsitzende des DLR in Berlin. Dafür soll auf diesem neuen Prüfstand P5.2 am DLR-Standort Lampoldshausen die Oberstufe der Ariane 6 umfangreiche Tests durchlaufen. Hierzu zählen neben Versuchen zur Be- und Enttankung auch komplette Stufentests, bei denen die Oberstufe mit laufendem Triebwerk betrieben wird. Im Jahr 2018 soll mit der Inbetriebnahme begonnen werden.
Einsatz für den Raumfahrtstandort Deutschland
Dass der neue Prüfstand überhaupt in Lampoldshausen gebaut werden kann, dafür hat sich auch das DLR Raumfahrtmanagement in Bonn eingesetzt. Von hier aus wird die deutsche Beteiligung am Ariane-6-Programm gesteuert. "Deutschland beteiligt sich mit 23 Prozent an der neuen Trägerrakete und ist damit nach Frankreich der zweitstärkste Partner. Wir wollen diese starke deutsche Beteiligung effektiv gestalten und unser Knowhow gewinnbringend in den europäischen Kontext einbringen. Der Bau dieser Testanlage in Deutschland ist ein klares Signal und ein schöner Erfolg unseres Engagements", betonte Denis Regenbrecht, der im Raumfahrtmanagement für das Ariane 6 Programm zuständig ist.
Erweiterung des Testportfolios am DLR-Standort Lampoldshausen
Technisch verantwortlich für den Bau und den späteren Betrieb des Teststandes ist das DLR-Institut für Raumfahrtantriebe. An den Prüfständen des Standorts Lampoldshausen testet das DLR im Auftrag der ESA und der europäischen Raumfahrtindustrie Flüssigtriebwerke verschiedenster Leistungsklassen. "Der P5.2 ist eine großartige Erweiterung unseres Testportfolios", erläutert Prof. Stefan Schlechtriem, Direktor des DLR-Instituts für Raumfahrtantriebe. "Neben Triebwerken und deren Komponenten können wir damit in Zukunft komplette Oberstufen testen. Diese Fähigkeit ist europaweit einzigartig."
Ariane 6 - Europas Zukunft des Raumtransports
Das Ariane-6-Entwicklungsprogramm wurde auf der ESA-Ministerratskonferenz im Dezember 2014 beschlossen und von zwölf Teilnehmerstaaten gezeichnet. Bis zum Erststart im Jahr 2020 wird ein europäisches Trägersystem entwickelt, das weltweit wettbewerbsfähig ist und den europäischen Zugang zum All für die ESA-Mitgliedsstaaten sichern kann. Im Vergleich zu Ariane 5 werden hierbei die absoluten und spezifischen Startkosten um fast 50 Prozent gesenkt werden. Hauptauftragnehmer der Ariane-6-Entwicklung ist das französisch-deutsche Unternehmen Airbus-Safran-Launchers (ASL). Eine weitere wesentliche deutsche Rolle wird das Augsburger Unternehmen MT-Aerospace spielen.
Quelle: ESA
Update: 14.08.2016

Ariane 6 rocket holding to schedule for 2020 maiden flight

Artist's illustration of the Ariane 64 rocket version, with four solid rocket boosters. Credit: ESA–David Ducros, 2016
Artist’s illustration of the Ariane 64 rocket version, with four solid rocket boosters. Credit: ESA–David Ducros, 2016

Europe’s top rocket contractor is pressing ahead with development of the Ariane 6 rocket, a versatile launcher with half the cost of Europe’s current Ariane 5 booster, keeping the new vehicle on track for its 2020 debut.

The rocket cleared a major design review in June, and there are no signs of slowdowns in a multibillion-dollar program that is as much of an exercise in cost-cutting as technical development.

At the same time, engineers are evaluating what it might take to convert the Ariane 6 into a partially reusable rocket, including a new methane-fueled engine that could be plugged into the Ariane 6’s first stage and a booster recovery system to return the engine to the ground for another mission.

But Europe’s biggest rocket developer, Airbus Safran Launchers, is sure the Ariane 6 will answer the near-term needs of European governments and commercial satellite operators, who seek lower prices and multiple reliable launch options.

Alain Charmeau, chief executive of Airbus Safran launchers, told Spaceflight Now he is “extremely confident” the Ariane 6 will be ready for a maiden test flight by the end of 2020, and will fully replace the Ariane 5 in 2023.

Between 2020 and 2023, ground teams will ramp up the Ariane 6 production and launch rate, eventually reaching a cadence of 11 or 12 flights per year. Officials anticipate five Ariane 6 missions per year will be for European institutional customers, including the European Space Agency, the European Commission and individual member states. The balance of the manifest will be filled with commercial payloads.

A top aim of the Ariane 6 project is to guarantee European spacecraft can ride to orbit aboard a European rocket — the goal of independent access to space — while ending public sector support once the rocket is operational.

Spaceflight Now members can read a transcript of our full interview with Alain Charmeau. Become a member today and support our coverage.


The new rocket’s first stage will use the same type of hydrogen-burning Vulcain 2 engine currently flying on the Ariane 5’s core. Its upper stage will fly with the new Vinci engine, which was originally supposed to go into an upgraded version of the Ariane 5 and has been in off-and-on development since 1999.

Both stages of the new launcher will have a diameter of nearly 18 feet (5.4 meters), the same size as the Ariane 5, allowing much of the tooling inside European rocket factories to be repurposed with minimal changes.

The 206-foot-tall (63-meter) Ariane 6 will come in two varieties — the Ariane 62 with two solid rocket boosters and the Ariane 64 with four strap-on motors — and will be able to launch satellites into low Earth orbit, geostationary transfer orbit, or a range of other orbits, plus Earth escape trajectories.

The P120C strap-on motors are based on the first stage of Europe’s Vega C rocket, a design decision intended to reduce overhead and launch costs.

This cutaway diagram shows the Ariane 62 and Ariane 64 rocket configurations. Credit: ESA
This cutaway diagram shows the Ariane 62 and Ariane 64 rocket configurations. Credit: ESA

The solid-fueled Vega booster is an Italian-led program. Vega’s lead contractor is ELV — a joint venture led by Italy’s Avio aerospace developer and the Italian Space Agency — while the Ariane 6 is primarily led by companies in France and Germany, with smaller contributions from Italy, Switzerland and other European states.

The Vega C is an upgraded, more powerful version of the current Vega booster. It will haul heavier cargo into orbit and start launching in 2018.

The Ariane 6’s commonality with the Ariane 5 and Vega C, coupled with the upper stage’s Vinci engine already in testing, gives the new launcher a head start in development.

“We did not start this launcher from scratch but from either existing hardware or an engine which has been under development, and which is almost qualified now,” Charmeau said.

Unlike the Ariane 5’s existing cryogenic upper stage engine, the HM7B powerplant borrowed from Europe’s previous Ariane 4 launcher, the Vinci can ignite multiple times during a flight. That will allow the Ariane 6 to put satellites in different types of orbits, easing the placement of multi-satellite constellations and releasing communications payloads closer to their final posts in geostationary orbit, reducing the fuel the spacecraft need to carry.

Test models of the Vinci are already being test-fired.

Airbus Safran Launchers is a 50-50 joint venture formed in January 2015 between Airbus and Safran, the companies which managed the bulk of production of the Ariane rocket family’s structures, tanks and engines. Airbus and Safran finalized the joint venture June 30, with Safran paying Airbus 750 million euros (nearly $840 million) to establish equal ownership of the Ariane design offices and production lines.

The new company has 8,400 employees across France and Germany, and has 11 subsidiaries and affiliates, including Arianespace, which oversees sales and operations of the Ariane 5, Ariane 6, Soyuz and Vega rockets at a launch base in Kourou, French Guiana.

Airbus and Safran took responsibility for designing the Ariane 6 rocket from CNES, the French space agency, in a bid to ensure the new launcher can meet tight pricing constraints sought by government and commercial satellite owners.

Alain Charmeau (left), CEO of Airbus Safran Launchers, and Gaele Winters (right), the European Space Agency's director of launchers, signed the development contract for the Ariane 6 rocket in August 2015. Credit: ESA–N. Imbert-Vier, 2015
Alain Charmeau (left), CEO of Airbus Safran Launchers, and Gaele Winters (right), the European Space Agency’s director of launchers, signed the development contract for the Ariane 6 rocket in August 2015. Credit: ESA–N. Imbert-Vier, 2015

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which currently sells for about $61 million, has put the European launcher community on its heels. The Ariane 5 rocket still won a slight majority of competitively-procured launch contracts awarded last year for satellites heading to geostationary orbit.

But that may not remain the case, as SpaceX strings together a rapid-fire launch cadence with Falcon 9s taking off, on average, than once per month. SpaceX has also recovered five Falcon 9 first stage boosters and hopes to transition the dramatic landing attempts from being purely experimental toward becoming a vital part of the company’s economic calculus.

SpaceX officials have said they hope to knock off about 30 percent from the Falcon 9’s current launch price when the rockets fly with previously-used first stage boosters. That price could come down further if SpaceX can master rapid turnarounds between landings and launches, said Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s president chief operating officer, in an interview with Spaceflight Now earlier this year.

With Falcon 9 launch prices of $40 million potentially on the horizon, most of SpaceX’s competitors believe they need new offerings.

The Ariane 6’s four-booster configuration, called the Ariane 64, will be the Ariane 6 version that likely flies most often. It can loft up to 10.5 metric tons — more than 23,000 pounds — into geostationary transfer orbit, the destination favored by most commercial communications satellites.

That capacity is just above the Ariane 5’s capability today, and will allow engineers to fit two large communications stations on a single Ariane 6. The dual-payload launch scheme is already in practice with the Ariane 5, but the Ariane 64 should fly for about $100 million, bringing the per-satellite price near current Falcon 9 levels.

“Ariane 6 will reduce the cost of our launchers by 50 percent compared to today,” said Gaele Winters, ESA’s director of launcher programs. “You have to realize that, in just four years, we are reducing the cost of a launcher within Europe by 50 percent. That is, of course, a major step. If you think about Ariane 6 in a double-launch configuration, we are able to offer a price which is really, really attractive in comparison with the competition.”

The Ariane 62’s launch price is forecast to be around $80 million, tailored to deliver up to 7 metric tons — more than 15,000 pounds — to low polar orbits often used by Earth observation satellites.

Artist's concept of a Vinci engine, featuring an extendable nozzle, on the Ariane 6 upper stage. Credit: Safran
Artist’s concept of a Vinci engine, featuring an extendable nozzle, on the Ariane 6 upper stage. Credit: Safran

Other launch providers are expected to be more aggressive in the commercial market. International Launch Services, the U.S.-based company that sells Proton launches commercially, has cut prices to lure business after the Proton’s recent reliability woes. And United Launch Alliance officials say the business case for the new Vulcan launcher, a replacement for the Atlas 5, requires at least some commercial customers.

So will the Ariane 6 be competitive?

“We have to be,” Charmeau said. “We will be competitive. We will use an Ariane 6 with competitive technologies, such as solid propulsion and cryogenic propulsion, which are more efficient than other ones. We will have a big launcher, Ariane 64, to allow for dual-launch of two big satellites, which is also a way to reduce the cost per customer.”

With industrial facilities now under the umbrella of Airbus Safran Launchers, Charmeau said his team is already turning attention to a smooth startup on the Ariane 6 assembly lines. Technicians will integrate the Ariane 6 core stage in Les Mureaux, France, northwest of Paris, and engine work is centered in nearby Vernon.

Final assembly of the Ariane 6 upper stage will occur in Bremen, Germany.

Those same production plants are currently involved in the Ariane 5 program.

“We want to go directly into production for Ariane 6, and I would say the development is not really the most worrying part of it,” Charmeau said. “We want to really pay attention to how to set up the production, and how to ramp up the production as quickly as possible.”

Later this year or in early 2017, Arianespace will likely place orders for a final batch of Ariane 5 rockets and an initial purchase of Ariane 6s. The contract will set the final number of Ariane 5 launchers to be flown, effectively starting the countdown clock to its planned retirement in 2023.

The Ariane 6 must be ready to take over as the Ariane 5 flies out its manifest, according to Charmeau.

“We will have an on-ramp, or transition, phase between 2020 and 2022, and our target is that by 2023 we have only Ariane 6 flying,” he told Spaceflight Now. “This is a transition period with one Ariane 6 in 2020, and six or seven Ariane 5s, to the end of the transition, where we will have no more Ariane 5s in 2023.”

Airbus Safran Launchers signed a 2.4-billion-euro ($2.7 billion) contract with ESA in August 2015 to develop the Ariane 6. That deal included a commitment of 680 million euros (about $760 million) in ESA funding to carry the Ariane 6 development through a preliminary design review.

The rocket program is also getting a commercial investment of 400 million euros (about $450 million) from Airbus Safran Launchers.

“We don’t wait for all the decisions to be taken,” Winters said. “One of the ambitions of this program is to have the launcher — Ariane 6 — available in 2020, which is only a few years (away). So we have to do the complete development project to be ready for a first launch in 2020.”

Charmeau said the Ariane 6 passed its preliminary design review in June, and ESA member states are expected to clear the release of the rest of the contract money during an ESA Council meeting Sept. 13.

“The design configuration is frozen, and 12 months from now, we will have started the production of some parts of the launcher, at least for ground testing,” Charmeau said.

Airbus Safran Launchers is sticking with a throwaway design for the Ariane 6, and Charmeau said the company will take cues from its customers, not competitors like SpaceX.

File photo of a Vulcain 2 engine destined for launch on an Ariane 5 rocket. Credit: Philippe Stroppa/Snecma/Safran
File photo of a Vulcain 2 engine destined for launch on an Ariane 5 rocket. Credit: Philippe Stroppa/Snecma/Safran

“We believe what the customers are expecting is not a reused launcher,” he said. “I am convinced they would prefer to buy a new launcher than a second-hand launcher, but they want to reduce the cost. We are working intensely on cost reduction.”

Airbus Safran Launchers argues that the Ariane 6 will be less expensive than the Falcon 9’s current prices on a cost-per-kilogram basis, and many European officials, while impressed by SpaceX’s rocket landing achievements, are unconvinced the successful introduction of a reusable booster will lead to significant cost reductions on the orders-of-magnitude scale predicted by SpaceX founder Elon Musk

Managers leading the Ariane 6 program intend to cut costs by organizing the rocket’s production and launch operations into a vertical integration, taking a page from SpaceX’s strategy of building most of its rockets and spaceships in-house. There are also advantages through economies of scale — the Ariane 6 will fly up to a dozen times per year — and a wider sharing of industrial overhead costs with the Vega rocket program.

Engineers also found shortcuts in Ariane 6’s technical design and concept of operations. For example, the new rocket will employ 3D-printed parts inside its engines, easing the time and cost of production.

“The approach on Ariane 6 is when we design it, we’re asking why we cannot use 3D printing,” Charmeau said. “Obviously, we cannot do it for big structures, when we have structures of 5-meter (16-foot) diameter. We cannot do 3D printing (there) because the machines are not available, but for any piece of the launcher which fits with the size of the machines for 3D printing, we will do it.”

The Ariane 6 will also use a pyro-laser ignition system, relying on focused light beams to spark the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants inside the rocket’s Vinci upper stage engine. No such system is in use on a large rocket engine today.

There are also changes at the Ariane launch base in French Guiana. The new Ariane 6 launch pad, a few miles to the northwest of the Ariane 5’s existing launch facility, will have a large hangar for ground crews to put together the major parts of the rocket horizontally.

Horizontal integration is nothing new in the rocket business. Russian boosters have been assembled on their side for decades, and the Falcon 9 and Delta 4 rockets in the United States are mostly integrated horizontally.

But Ariane rockets up to now have been stacked vertical on top a launch table. Managers found out the launch campaign could be shortened if that changed on Ariane 6.

“The result of the tradeoff is that it was cheaper to do it horizontally than vertically,” Charmeau said. “It’s as simple as that. It was not done in Ariane 5, so for us it is something new, and we are going to drastically reduce the integration cycle and integration costs for Ariane 6 compared to Ariane 5.”

The Ariane 6’s satellites will still be added on top of the rocket after it rolls out and stands upright on the launch pad.

“We know our customers like to do it this way,” Charmeau said.

In Airbus Safran Launchers’ search for savings, officials have not turned their backs to the benefits of reusability. But the clear priority has been in finding ways to slash costs in other areas.

Diagram of the Adeline concept of operations. Credit: Airbus Defense and Space
Diagram of the Adeline concept of operations. Credit: Airbus Defense and Space

“Of course, the cheaper you are the less interesting reusability becomes because we know there are costs in order to recover and reuse a launcher,” Charmeau said. “But if a launcher is very cheap, it’s more competitive to have an expendable launcher than a reusable one.”

Nevertheless, Airbus kicked off a research and development effort in 2010 to investigate how to eventually pursue reusability for the Ariane rocket family. The result was Adeline, a fully automated re-entry module that would break off from the base of a rocket’s first stage, start up turbofan engines, and return to a runway landing with the booster’s core engine and avionics package.

Charmeau said Airbus Safran Launchers continues working on the Adeline program with its own private funds. Officials last year said Airbus had spent about $15 million on the program through 2015.

Early tests have included low-altitude flights of a sub-scale version of Adeline at a French airfield.

The Ariane 6’s design is compatible with the potential addition of a recoverable engine module, Charmeau said, if European governments want to back it.

The avionics and main engines represent between 70 and 80 percent of the total cost of a launch vehicle, according to Airbus, and those expensive components could be returned to Earth with less fuel than SpaceX needs to set aside for recovery. Instead, the propellant could be applied to add lift performance for payloads, officials said.

Airbus officials said last year that reusing the engines and avionics could result in a cost reduction of up to 30 percent, the same figure publicized by SpaceX earlier this year.

“We are convinced that it could be a competitive concept, but for the moment our priority is Ariane 6 because we believe, and hear our customers believe, Ariane 6 will be competitive,” Charmeau said. “Then we have two (projects) for the future. One is to develop a new liquid engine, a big engine, in order to drastically cut down the cost of this engine compared to today, and the other concept is how to use the Adeline design in order to make a reusable launcher maybe one day. Whether it will be an evolution of Ariane 6 or a new launcher, like Ariane 7, we cannot say today.”

Charmeau declined to offer many details on the next-generation engine. Called Prometheus, the engine will burn methane and liquid oxygen, and early development of the new powerplant began a few months ago.

He said the Prometheus engine will have about the same power as the Vulcain 2, the Ariane 6 rocket’s initial core engine. The Vulcain 2 generates approximately 300,000 pounds of thrust.

“We are cautious, and we prefer to speak when are sure of what we announce. That’s why sometimes we don’t speak a lot,” Charmeau said. “It’s European culture, I would say. But certainly this engine could very well fit with the first stage of Ariane 6 one day.”

Quelle: SN


Update: 14.09.2016


ESA gives final approval for Ariane 6; Airbus Safran Launchers now in control


PARIS — The European Space Agency (ESA) on Sept. 13 gave final go-ahead for development of the next-generation Ariane 6 heavy-lift launch vehicle, confirming a rendezvous that many thought impossible when it was set in December 2014.

Meeting at ESA’s headquarters here, the agency’s ruling council approved the release of the second and final tranche of funds for Ariane 6, with the transfer of funds to Ariane 6 prime contractor Airbus Safran Launchers to occur in late October.

The contract’s, whose financial contours have already been determined since its signature in August 2015, is for 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) for the development of the Ariane 6 under Airbus Safran Launchers leadership.

A bit more than a quarter of that sum, 680 million euros, was paid out after the August 2015 signature. It is the remaining piece that was withheld pending a Program Implementation Review that ESA governments insisted on just to be sure they were not buying something they did not want. The funds’ release will now be validated by ESA’s Industrial Policy Committee, scheduled to meet in late October.

To these figures are added 600 million euros to be paid to the French space agency, CNES, to build the new Ariane 6 launch complex at Europe’s Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America.

Another 400 million euros is coming from the principal industrial contractors building Ariane 6.

ESA’s Gaele Winters: Technical performance of Ariane 6 is clear

Gaele Winters, ESA’s outgoing director of launchers — his last day on the job was Sept. 13 — said the Ariane 6 is on track both in its technical design, performance requirements and schedule.

In an interview, Winters said the vehicle is still scheduled to fly in 2020. The current thinking is that the existing Ariane 5 would be operated in parallel until 2023. But the precise Ariane 5 phase-out schedule will be the subject of what Winters called an Exploitation Verification Key Point, to occur by the end of 2017.

Government guaranteed launch rate to be discussed later

Also to be determined then is whether and how European governments will guarantee to Airbus Safran Launchers five contract per year. The company has said it needs this minimum government guarantee to close the business case.

Winters said several ESA governments remain concerned that their industry will not receive contracts corresponding to the amount of their governments’ contributions to the Ariane 6 program. This issue, known at ESA as fair return or industrial return, is a pillar of ESA management.

Winters said he saw no serious issues there and that assuring the necessary return for all governments contributing to Ariane 6 will be part of the relatively easy adjustments to be made starting in 2017.

The biggest government customer for Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium is not ESA but the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union.

It is the commission that owns Europe’s biggest government space programs, the Galileo positioning, navigation and timing network and the Copernicus Earth observation system.

The commission is developing a space strategy for Europe that will not be published until late October. The consequences of this policy, and how to provide the Ariane 6 contractors a minimum annual government launches, will be a subject of debate starting in 2017.

Other details for Ariane 6 are not viewed as urgent but are nonetheless key to the program’s ultimate success. For example, it is not yet clear who has what responsibility in the event of an Ariane 6 failure.

“We are in a development phase now, and topics like this need to be addressed for the exploitation phase,” Winters said. “The exploitation review in late 2017 will treat aspects including the financial environment of the vehicle’s exploitation and other topics that do not need to be handled now.”

As a result of the Sept. 13 council decision, Ariane 6 will not be on the agenda for ESA governments when they meet in Switzerland in early December to discuss ESA’s mid-term budget and policy direction.

Once the funding complement is released, CNES is expected to proceed with the sale of its 35 percent share of Arianespace to Airbus Safran Launchers, a transaction valued at about 150 million euros.

ESA will remain a “censor” on the Arianespace board of directors, keeping at least a symbolic government hand in the launcher business despite CNES’s departure as an Arianespace shareholder.

Quelle: SN


Update: 16.09.2016


Clear path to Ariane 6 rocket introduction

The company set up to manufacture Europe's next-generation rocket - the Ariane 6 - says it is open to orders.

Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL) expects to introduce the new vehicle in 2020.

This week, member states of the European Space Agency gave their final nod to the project following an extensive review process.

The assessment confirmed the design and performance of the proposed rocket, and the development schedule that will bring it into service. 

Esa has earmarked R&D funds of €2.4bn for the Ariane 6. Twenty-eight percent of that sum was given to ASL in August 2015. The completion of the review, and the member states' acceptance of it, means the balance should now follow. 

"Now that we are sure that the development programme will go through to the end, Arianespace will start marketing the Ariane 6," said Alain Charmeau, the CEO of ASL.

"I am sure there will be many commercial satellite customers out there who will want to have Ariane 6 in their order books for 2021," he told BBC News.

ASL is about to take a majority shareholding in Arianespace, the company that has traditionally sold the payload space on Ariane vehicles. 

This change in ownership is the last part of a major reorganisation in Europe's rocket industry that seeks to keep it competitive into the future.

Vinci engine testImage copyrightDLR
Image captionA hot-fire test campaign for the new Vinci upper-stage engine got under way this summer

The current Ariane 5 vehicle, although remarkably reliable and consistent in its performance, costs substantially more to build and launch than some of its competitors - in particular, the Falcon 9 rocket operated by SpaceX in the US.

The Ariane 6 is Europe's response. It aims to halve the 5's cost-per-kilo for putting satellites in orbit.

Industrially, this requires a transformation of the rocket production process: to use fewer people, more streamlined ways of working, and new fabrication techniques.

The Ariane 6 will come in two versions. One, known as Ariane 62, will loft medium-sized spacecraft into orbit - the kind of platforms that image and study the Earth.

A second version, known as Ariane 64, will put up the heavy telecommunications spacecraft, which sit 36,000km above the equator.

The new rocket leans heavily on its heritage. Indeed, its upper-stage engine, called Vinci, was originally intended for an upgrade of the Ariane 5. 

Prototype Vinci test firings have been conducted through the summer.

Prometheus engine versus VulcainImage copyrightASL
Image captionThe Prometheus engine would be made substantially cheaper than the existing Vulcain power unit

Although the design for the Ariane 6 is frozen, ASL is already looking to evolutions of the vehicle that could bring down its costs still further.

One proposal is to replace the Vulcain engine at the base of the rocket with an all-new propu

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