ESA Signs Contracts to Improve Ariane 5, Vega Boosters

Vega launch vehicle (Credit: ESA–Stephane Corvaja, 2015)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Director of Space Transportation, Daniel Neuenschwander, signed five contracts with industry at the Paris Air and Space show in France this week.

“Five contracts, one goal: to consolidate space transportation services and capacities for the benefit of Europe’s competitiveness,” he commented.

Contracts signed with ELV SpA and Airbus Safran Launchers will improve launch performance and flexibility, and maintain the competitiveness of Europe’s current and future space transportation systems.

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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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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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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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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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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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Airbus Safran Launchers, VINCI Group Partners Sign ITER Robotics Contract

Credit: Airbus Safran Launchers
Credit: Airbus Safran Launchers

• The total value of the framework contract, awarded by Fusion for Energy (F4E), amounts to almost 100 million euros over a period of 7 years.

• This is considered to be the largest robotics contract ever in the field of fusion.

• Airbus Safran Launchers will deploy its space technology know-how, Cegelec CEM will apply its expertise in mechanical engineering, and Nuvia Limited will use its proven-track record in nuclear technology to provide the state of the art equipment.

Issy-les-Moulineaux, FRANCE (Airbus Safran Launchers PR) — ITER is the world’s largest international energy research collaboration bringing together Europe, the United States, China, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea. This prototype reactor, currently under construction in Cadarache, north of Marseille (France), aims to demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of fusion as a new, viable and sustainable energy source for future generations.

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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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UK Space Agency Invests £1.15 Million in Launch Research

UK_space_agencySWINDON, UK (UKSA PR) — We are investing £1.15 million to fund preparatory research about sub-orbital spaceflight and small satellite launches from the UK.

In 2015, the National Space Policy set out the government’s ambition to establish a spaceport in the UK. In February 2016, proposals were invited for industrial research projects to investigate the challenges associated with the introduction and operation of commercial viable services in the UK, and to identify the underpinning technological developments required to support these activities.

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Commission Approves Airbus Safran Launchers Acquisition of Arianespace

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

BRUSSELS (EU PR) — Following an in-depth review, the European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Arianespace by Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), a joint venture between Airbus and Safran. This approval is subject to conditions.

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UK Government Awards Launch Feasibility Studies

UK_flagSpace News reports the British government has awarded contracts totaling approximately $2 million to five groups for feasibility studies on launching out of the United Kingdom.

Airbus Safran Launchers, the prime contractor for Europe’s Ariane 5 and future Ariane 6 rockets, which has said was interested in a small-satellite launcher in addition to commercializing its work on a suborbital space-tourism vehicle.

Deimos Space UK associated with Firefly Space Systems of the United States, developing a vertical-launch rocket.

Lockheed Martin of the United States, proposing a version of its Athena small-satellite vertical-launch vehicle.

Britain’s Orbital Access associated with BAE Systems and Reaction Engines Ltd., proposing to use a modified version of Reaction Engines’ single-stage-to-orbit technology, whose development is being partially funded by the British government.

Virgin Galactic, which is proposing its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle, designed in the United States.

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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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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.