Europe okays design for next-generation rocket

Jul 09, 2013
An Ariane 5 rocket carrying two satellites sits on the launch pad on February 6, 2013 at the European space centre of Kourou, French Guiana. The European Space Agency (ESA) on Tuesday said it had approved the final design for a next-generation rocket, Ariane 6, aimed at maintaining Europe's grip on the fast-changing market for satellite launches.

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Tuesday said it had approved the final design for a next-generation rocket, Ariane 6, aimed at maintaining Europe's grip on the fast-changing market for satellite launches.

ESA ministers gave political approval for the scheme in Naples, Italy, last November, and since then the agency's experts have been working with Europe's to hammer out the design.

Ariane 6 is sketched as a lower-cost flexible able to place a single payload of between three and 6.5 tonnes in geostationary orbit—the popular parking slot for .

ESA's current flagship launcher is the bigger and highly reliable Ariane 5, a multiple-payload launcher that is expensive to operate.

It requires support of 120 million euros ($154 million) each year, at a time when sleek US entrepreneurs are starting to nibble at the satellite market.

In a press release, ESA said the design was for a three-stage vehicle.

Its first stage would comprise three motors, set in a line as opposed to a more conventional "cluster" configuration, that would be powered by 135 tonnes of .

The second stage will also be driven by a solid-propellant motor.

An Ariane 5 rocket carrying two satellites sits on the launch pad at the European space centre of Kourou, French Guiana, on on February 6, 2013. The European Space Agency (ESA) on Tuesday said it had approved the final design for a next-generation rocket, Ariane 6, aimed at maintaining Europe's grip on the fast-changing market for satellite launches.

The third will be propelled by a planned liquid-fuelled engine, Vinci, designed to be restartable rather than a single-burn motor, to give more options for placing in complex orbits.

If all goes well, Ariane 6 will make its maiden flight in 2021 or 2022, becoming Europe's workhorse launcher for the next decade.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, head of France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), said the rocket's smaller size and newer technology would make Ariane 6 launches 30 percent cheaper than those of Ariane 5, which cost about 100 million euros per six-tonne satellite.

Around four billion euros in investment will be needed, mainly coming from countries whose industries will get most of the work.

The decision to back Ariane 6 set France at odds with Germany, whose industrialists complained that its development time was way too long.

Under a compromise, ministers backed a tweak of the Ariane 5 called Ariane 5 ME—for "Midlife Evolution"—that would be ready by 2017 at a putative cost of two billion euros.

It would be the first rocket to use the new-fangled Vinci upper-stage engine.

Its payload capacity would be two satellites of more than five tonnes each, hoisted to geostationary , providing a 20-percent gain in cost over the present Ariane 5 ECA and ES models, according to prime contractor Astrium.

Under the deal, Ariane 6 will incorporate as much of the Ariane 5 ME technology as possible to save waste and time.

Explore further: Team develops cognitive test battery for spaceflight

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Europe's Vega rocket launch set for early February

Jan 09, 2012

The maiden voyage of Europe's Vega rocket, designed to launch small payloads of about 1.5 tonnes into low-Earth orbit, is set for February 9, the head of the European Space Agency said Monday.

Recommended for you

Rosetta's comet: In the shadow of the coma

21 minutes ago

This NAVCAM mosaic comprises four individual images taken on 20 November from a distance of 30.8 km from the centre of Comet 67P/C-G. The image resolution is 2.6 m/pixel, so each original 1024 x 1024 pixel ...

DNA survives critical entry into Earth's atmosphere

21 hours ago

The genetic material DNA can survive a flight through space and re-entry into the earth's atmosphere—and still pass on genetic information. A team of scientists from UZH obtained these astonishing results ...

Team develops cognitive test battery for spaceflight

21 hours ago

Space is one of the most demanding and unforgiving environments. Human exploration of space requires astronauts to maintain consistently high levels of cognitive performance to ensure mission safety and success, and prevent ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

EarthlingX
1 / 5 (2) Jul 10, 2013
Solid engines on a heavy launcher ? This looks like political engineering, with price to pay.

I can't see how this will compete with SpaceX and in future, Reaction Engines.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jul 10, 2013
and in future, Reaction Engines

Erm. A solid propulsion motor IS a reaction engine.
EarthlingX
not rated yet Jul 11, 2013
and in future, Reaction Engines

Erm. A solid propulsion motor IS a reaction engine.

Indeed. I should've been more precise and here i correct it :
http://www.reacti...bre.html
EarthlingX
not rated yet Jul 14, 2013
I'm not alone in this sentiment :
DLR's Woerner Remains Unconvinced Just-unveiled Ariane 6 Design Is Right Way To Go
http://www.spacen...xLKw8kcU

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.