Group Calls Ariane 6 “Dead End”, Urges Reboot

Ariane6_diagramSpace News reports that leading European space experts are urging ESA to change course on its Ariane 6 rocket, which they say has an inflexible, dead end design:

Europe’s Air & Space Academy says the French and European space agencies are moving in the wrong direction on the future Ariane 6 rocket and should delay development in favor of a redesign that provides more growth potential.

The academy is urging the agencies to stop work on the Ariane 6 they approved in November with a view to beginning full development in 2014. The academy-favored rocket would use liquid propulsion instead of solid, and would face four more years of preparatory work before moving to full development in 2018.

In the meantime, the academy says, Europe should focus on an upgraded heavy-lift Ariane 5 that would fly for a decade before both it and the Europeanized version of Russia’s medium-lift Soyuz rocket are replaced by the all-liquid Ariane 6 in 2027. This rocket, called Ariane 5 ME, has been in design for several years. Continued work on it was approved, alongside Ariane 6, at the November meeting of European Space Agency (ESA) governments….

The academy specifically alleges that the current Ariane 6 version of two solid-fueled stages topped by a cryogenic upper stage is a dead-end design that does not permit the flexibility needed in a rocket that will serve as Europe’s main launcher for several decades. “It is the wrong choice,” the letter says.

The academy estimates that both the liquid-fuel and solid-fuel designs for Ariane 6, which would carry one communications satellite, would cost 98 million euros ($127.8 million) to launch at the outset. ESA’s goal is to bring the cost down to 70 million euros ($91.3 million), which the academy believes will be very difficult to achieve. The current Ariane 5, which launches two communications satellites at a time, costs approximately 145 million euros ($189 million) to launch.

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