ESA to Abandon Ariane 5 Upgrade, Move Directly to Ariane 6

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

Space News reports on Europe’s plans for a new launch vehicle to replace Ariane 5:

The German government has agreed to drop its demand that Europe develop a long-planned upgrade of today’s Ariane 5 rocket and instead proceed with a new-generation Ariane 6 that borrows heavily on Ariane 5 technology, Germany’s space minister said.

The decision ends an impasse that has bedeviled the European Space Agency for more than two years as it prepares for a Dec. 2 conference of its governments.

While noting that certain funding details and a clarification of industry’s risk-taking guarantee remain to be ironed out, Brigitte Zypries said Germany and France now agree to back Ariane 6 and to scrap the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (ME) rocket that European governments have been developing for several years.

“We have found a compromise that is OK for both countries, for the other participating states and also for industry,” Zypries said in a Nov. 15 emailed response to SpaceNews questions. “The important elements are the joint intention to develop a new launcher as part of a concept based mainly on Ariane 5 ME technology and Vega, and a new launcher governance.”

Read the full story.

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.


Discord Continues Over Future of Ariane Launch System

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

As SpaceX continues to notch successful launches and sign new customers, Europe’s two largest contributors to ESA’s budget remain divided on the future of the Ariane launch vehicle:

The French and German governments remain so far apart on a future space-launch policy for Europe that officials are now privately talking about canceling a December conference of European space ministers or stripping it of concrete decisions.

The basic division remains despite the German government’s alignment with the French view that Europe needs a lower-cost rocket to maintain its viability in the commercial market — which in turn provides European governments with a viable launch industry.

Despite the consensus over the longer term, the two sides remain split on whether European Space Agency governments should spend 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) to complete work on a new upper stage for the existing Ariane 5 rocket, which could fly in 2018-2019, or abandon the upgrade to focus spending on a new Ariane 6 rocket, whose development would cost upwards of 3 billion euros over 7-8 years.

Read the full story at Space News.

French Aerospace Enjoyed Good 2013, But Key Decisions Loom in Space

GIFAS_logoPARIS (GIFAS PR) — Marwan Lahoud, Chairman of GIFAS [French Aerospace Industries Association], presented the French aerospace, defence and security industry results for 2013.

“The sector enjoyed another good year in 2013. Sales rose to €47.9 bn (by 9% on a comparable basis) with exports inputting €30.4 bn (an 11.4% increase) equating to 79% of consolidated sales. The civil sector accounted for 75% of all sales. Our industry is a centre of excellence for France on both technological and economic levels. It is propelled by a sector that is coherent, cohesive, responsive and ambitious and whose performance is frequently quoted as being exemplary”, Marwan Lahoud was pleased to announce to the press.

In 2013 orders rose to a new record height of €73.1 bn – a 49% improvement on 2012 – which was mainly ascribable to the civil sector that drew 84% of the orders.


Snecma Completes Round of Vinci Engine Tests

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

Courcouronnes, France, September 30, 2013 (Snecma PR) — Snecma has kicked off a new series of tests of the Snecma (Safran) Vinci® cryogenic rocket engine intended for the upper stages of the new Ariane launchers, the upgraded Ariane 5ME (Midlife Evolution) and the brand-new Ariane 6. The first two tests of the No. 5 development engine, on September 10 and 26, were a complete success.

The Vinci® M5 variant features a hydrogen turbopump that incorporates the latest configuration changes. Lasting ten months, this series of tests will include a total of 16 firing tests and will enable validating the latest modifications in order to freeze the design by the end of 2014.


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.