Supersonic & Hypersonic Civilian Transport Projects in Development

Overture supersonic passenger jet (Credit: Boom Supersonic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boom Supersonic’s recent rollout of its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator aircraft marked a milestone in an accelerating race to revive an era of civilian supersonic travel that ended when the Concorde jetliner was retired in 2003.

XB-1, aka Baby Boom, is set to begin flight tests next year from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The Mach 2.2 (2,717 km/h, 1,688 mph) vehicle is the precursor to Boom’s 55-seat Overture airliner, which is scheduled to begin carrying passengers in 2029.

(more…)

Ariane 6 Engines Complete Qualification Tests

Hot firing of P120C solid rocket motor for Vega-C. (Credit: ESA/CNES)
  • The three engines for Europe’s new Ariane 6 launcher have now completed their qualification tests, following the successful qualification testing of the P120C solid propulsion engine on October 7 at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana
  • The qualification test campaigns for the Vinci and Vulcain 2.1 liquid propulsion engines were held in 2018 and 2019, respectively
  • The Vulcain 2.1 and Vinci engines, which will be powering the first Ariane 6, are ready to be mounted on the core stage in Les Mureaux and on the upper stage in Bremen

PARIS (ArianeGroup PR) — The future European launcher’s three types of engines use two different propulsion technologies:

  • liquid hydrogen-oxygen propulsion for the Vulcain 2.1 core stage engine and the re-ignitable Vinci engine on the upper stage;
  • solid propulsion for the P120C engine fitted to the boosters which help propel Ariane 6 beyond the gravitational pull of earth’s atmosphere.
(more…)

Shetland Space Centre Forms Partnership with ArianeGroup for Spaceport Study

Unst Island

GRANTOWN-ON-SPEY, Scotland (Shetland Space Center PR) — The Shetland Space Centre today announces a major partnership with ArianeGroup.

The joint venture, equally owned by Airbus and Safran and lead contractor for Europe’s Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launchers, will define a concept of operations and assess the range of missions for the SSC spaceport project in the frame of a three-month study. The spaceport will be designed from the ground up to be a commercial facility operated by SSC.

(more…)











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.

(more…)











Safran Injects $1 Billion into Rocket Partnership With Airbus

Artist's impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Airbus and Safran have ramped up their launch vehicle partnership:

Airbus and Safran said their joint venture to take over design and production of Europe’s Ariane 5 and future Ariane 6 rockets is expected to be in full operations by late 2015 following a Safran payment to Airbus of 800 million euros ($1 billion) in cash.

The transfer, both companies said, will be necessary for French aerospace-engine builder Safran to maintain a 50 percent stake in the new company, which was created in January and is called Airbus Safran Launchers.

In conference calls with investors Feb. 25 and Feb. 27, the two companies said that in addition to assuming the civil-launcher and strategic missiles work of the two companies, the joint venture by late 2015 is expected to have purchased the French government’s entire 34 percent ownership stake in the Arianespace commercial launch consortium.

Ultimately the joint venture is expected to have some 4,500 employees. For now, it is only 450 people — 300 from Airbus, the rest from Safran.

Read the full story.











Year in Review: Launch Industry Disrupted in 2014

div_afspc4_l5
SpaceX Founder Elon Musk has long talked about disrupting the launch industry with low prices and technological innovations. In 2014, the impacts of those efforts were felt far and wide as competitors responded to the threat the California company posed to their livelihoods.

ULA Pivots. With SpaceX reeling off one successful launch after another, ULA pivoted on several fronts. One was to announce efforts to significantly reduce costs on its highly reliable but pricey Atlas V and Delta IV boosters. But, even that proved to be insufficient as SpaceX threatened ULA on several fronts.

(more…)











Airbus, Safran Form Joint Venture for Ariane 6 Program

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


Amsterdam/Paris, 3 December 2014 (Airbus/Safran PR)
– Airbus Group (stock exchange symbol: AIR) and Safran (stock exchange symbol: SAF) have announced the creation of their new Joint Venture named Airbus Safran Launchers.

With an initial workforce of around 450, starting operations on 1 January 2015, Airbus Safran Launchers will maintain the outstanding level of quality and reliability of Ariane 5, while working on a new family of state-of-the-art space launchers to foster Europe’s leading role in the space industry. The new company will bring together the expertise of both Airbus Group and Safran in space launchers at key Franco-German industrial sites. The Joint Venture’s headquarters will be located in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris.

(more…)











Snecma Vinci Engine Completes Development Tests

Vinci engine (Credit: Snecma)
Vinci engine (Credit: Snecma)

VERNON, France (Snecma PR) – The fifth development model (M5) of the Vinci® rocket engine designed by Snecma (Safran), has successfully completed its ground firing tests.

Vinci® is a new-generation cryogenic rocket engine – fueled by liquid hydrogen and oxygen – intended for the upper stages of the upcoming Ariane 5 ME and Ariane 6 launch vehicles. It can be restarted in flight, and develops three times more thrust than the HM7B engine now powering the upper stage of the current Ariane 5 ECA launcher.

(more…)











No Decision Yet on Next-Generation Ariane Launch Vehicle

Artist's impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Space News reports that the future of the Ariane 6 launch vehicle remains uncertain after a meeting in Geneva on Tuesday:

The ministers from France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland took no formal decision but agreed to reassess the situation in September after further study of the costs associated with the two designs.

(more…)











ESA Weighs Ariane 6 Options as Major Satellite Operator Seeks Industry Overhaul, Price Cuts

Artist's conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Space News reports that ESA is weighing two options for its next-generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle as Arianespace cuts prices in response to competition from SpaceX. Meanwhile, satellite fleet operator SES is putting pressure on Europe’s launch vehicle industry to quickly reform itself.

A European Space Agency bid-evaluation team is expected to deliver its judgment by July 5 on two different designs for a next-generation Ariane 6 rocket — one it has been examining for about a year, and another it only discovered June 18.

The ESA Tender Evaluation Board’s recommendation will weigh heavily in a debate among a half-dozen European governments most concerned with launch vehicle production. Ministers from France, Germany and Italy are scheduled to meet July 8 in Geneva, at the invitation of the Swiss government, to solidify their own views of which way to go on Ariane 6.

(more…)











Airbus, Safran Combine Forces for Ariane Launcher Programs

Artist's conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

  • Companies Agree To Reshape Their Space Launcher Business, Create 50-50 Joint Venture
  • New Set-up To Increase Sector Competitiveness and Provide Customers With More Cost-Efficient Solutions
  • Launch of Ariane 5 ME and Ariane 6 Programmes At the Core of the New Industrial Set-Up
  • Signing of Joint Venture Transaction and Initial Start of Operations Expected Before the End of 2014

AMSTERDAM/ PARIS, June 16, 2014 (Airbus/Safran PR) — Airbus Group (stock exchange symbol: AIR) and Safran (stock exchange symbol: SAF) are further strengthening their relationship to propose a new family of competitive, versatile and efficient space launchers, to serve both commercial and institutional needs.

(more…)











ESA Alters Procurement Practices for Ariane 6 Program

Artist's impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

ESA has tossed aside one of its key spending practices — juste retour — in an attempt to produce a new Ariane 6 launch vehicle that can compete with cheaper ones offered by SpaceX and Chinese and Indian providers.

Juste retour (“fair return”) is the space agency’s way of spreading work around to companies in different nations in proportion to what national governments  put into a program. The approach produced the highly reliable but expensive Ariane V, whose components and systems are produced throughout Europe.

(more…)