Europe’s upcoming Ariane 6 rocket, though designed to be expendable, could one day sport a reusable engine, according to Patrick Bonguet, head of the Ariane 6 program at ArianeGroup.
The European Space Agency began funding a reusable rocket engine anticipated to be ready for a test-fire demonstration in 2020, the same year as the first launch of the future Ariane 6 rocket.
The joint venture of Airbus and Safran was created in 2015 as part of a reorganization of the European launch vehicle industry.
The European Commission will commit to buying at least five Ariane 6 and two Vega C launches per year when both rockets are in operation, Elzbieta Bienkowska, the European Commission’s lead space commissioner, said Wednesday.
Airbus Defence and Space saw its revenue decline in 2016 thanks in part to a 2.21 billion euros ($2.32 billion) charge on Europe’s troublesome A400M military transport aircraft program, but the division’s order intake was up over the prior year.
A French reusable rocket engine program is getting a boost from the European Space Agency, which is ready to sign a contract with Airbus Safran Launchers that would lead to an engine test three years from now.
The recent German-Italian agreement to divide production of casings for the future Ariane 6 rocket’s strap-on boosters, which also serve as the first stage of the Italian-led Vega-C small-satellite launcher, was a victory for political harmony in Europe.
The European Space Agency (ESA) on Sept. 13 gave final go-ahead for development of the next-generation Ariane 6 heavy-lift launch vehicle, confirming a rendezvous that many thought impossible when it was set in December 2014.
The European Commission on July 20 approved the Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL) takeover of launch-services provider Arianespace, saying companies had accepted conditions the commission imposed to minimize the chance of anti-competitive behavior.
The July 30 consolidation of Airbus Safran Launchers allows the transition of 7,500 employees to the new entity from the two parent companies following resolution of a tax issue but has no bearing on the investigation of ASL by European Commission authorities.
Rocket engine builder Safran on April 26 said its Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL) joint venture to be “fully operational on the 1st of July” following a resolution of “technical and administrative formalities.”
Europe’s rocket industry has gone 40 years by integrating its Ariane rockets vertically and then rolling them out by rail, upright, to the launch pad. That is about to end.
Europe’s next-generation Ariane 6 rocket remains on track for a 2020 first launch with a cost structure allowing the heavier Ariane 64 version to advertise per-kilogram prices below today’s Space X Falcon 9, European government and industry officials said April 6.
The president of the Italian Space Agency on March 17 voiced strong opposition to a French industrial takeover of Italy’s Avio, which is prime contractor for the Italian-led Vega small-satellite launcher, in the latest indication of the challenges facing European launch-sector reorganization.