The European Space Agency gave contracts to ArianeGroup and MT Aerospace on May 14 to develop a prototype upper stage that could lead to an advanced carbon-composite upgrade for the Ariane 6 rocket.
Giulio Ranzo, CEO of Avio, the Colleferro, Italy, company that builds the Vega and future Vega C rocket, said the ESA council session included missions for both Avio-built rockets during the transition years to Vega C.
The European Space Agency’s 22 member states agreed April 17 to a workaround to get Ariane 6 production in full swing despite a dearth of public sector launch contracts.
The Germany space agency DLR is beginning a study this month on a reusable launcher concept that would use a winged first-stage booster captured on descent by an aircraft and towed back to land.
First Ariane 6 to carry 30 OneWeb satellites • Viasat seeking to raise $500 million • Hispasat trials Wi-Fi hotspots in Colombia
Arianespace’s first Ariane 6 mission will carry 30 OneWeb satellites to low Earth orbit. The launch, slated for the second half of 2020, will use the “62” version of the rocket, which has two side boosters.
With the maiden flight of the Ariane 6 now 18 months away (in July 2020), Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël said the company had anticipated signing a manufacturing contract with ArianeGroup in the second part of last year to begin production beyond the first rocket.
Amid difficulties for the European launch industry, and with Brexit looming on the horizon, European Space Agency executives face a challenging year ahead.
European launch provider Arianespace is planning to conduct a record number of Vega launches this year, and, if OneWeb is ready, a return to launching from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
"The end of the development of Ariane 6 and the need to increase competitiveness in the European rocket launch business compel ArianeGroup to reduce its capacity by the equivalent of 2,300 full-time jobs by 2022," the company said in a statement.
Fleet operator Eutelsat of Paris signed a contract with Arianespace to launch five satellites on the future Ariane 6 rocket by 2027.
European rocket builder ArianeGroup, the company leading development and production of the Ariane 5 and upcoming Ariane 6 rockets, on Sept. 4 awarded a contract to a Swedish supplier for a reusable engine program.
ESA is pushing European industry to continue innovating and finding efficiencies even after Vega C’s introduction in 2019 and Ariane 6’s debut in 2020.
European Space Agency member states have agreed to keep all production of P120 solid rocket boosters in Italy instead of opening a second production line in Germany.
European launch provider Arianespace expects to conduct just 23 more Ariane 5 launches before the next-generation Ariane 6 becomes its primary rocket.