PARIS — Airbus Defence and Space will pursue definition and feasibility studies of Europe’s proposed next-generation Ariane 6 rocket through 2014 under a contract with the European Space Agency valued at 60 million euros ($81 million) and announced Feb. 12.

Under the contract, which an ESA official said was signed Feb. 10, Airbus will “consolidate the launcher’s main characteristics” based on the ESA-approved design of a vehicle with solid-fueled first and second stages, two solid-fueled strap-on boosters and a reignitable cryogenic upper stage.

The 20-nation ESA expects to have early cost estimates for Ariane 6 ready to present to its member governments starting in March, with binding cost guarantees to be ready by this summer.

ESA member governments are scheduled to meet Dec. 2 in Luxembourg to decide whether to commit to full development of Ariane 6.

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Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.