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.
To make Europe’s next-generation rocket more competitive, ArianeGroup aims to build the Ariane 6 at least 40 percent cheaper than the Ariane 5. ArianeGroup is applying the same cost targets to reflector antennas that go on geostationary satellites.
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.
Antenna builder ThinKom and fleet operator Inmarsat recently announced the completion of a series of tests using ThinKom antennas and Inmarsat’s high-throughput Global Xpress satellites.
ESA has awarded a contract to a group that includes Europe’s largest launch services provider and a former Google Lunar X Prize competitor to study a concept for a mission to mine lunar regolith.
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.
"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.
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.
European launch provider Arianespace expects to conduct just 23 more Ariane 5 launches before the next-generation Ariane 6 becomes its primary rocket.
An internal research and development program using widely available telescopes has evolved into a space situational awareness business for ArianeGroup.
Ariane 5 is one of the world’s most reliable launcher but its makers aren’t resting on their laurels. Following the 2015 creation of Airbus Safran Launchers, a joint venture between the two main contributors to the European rocket program, the company renamed itself to ArianeGroup and embarked on a journey through the quickly changing space industry landscape.
Speaking at Space Tech Expo Europe, Marc Valés, head of future programs at ArianeGroup, said that in addition to the existing cubesat standard, 50-kilogram-class nanosatellites should also be standardized.
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.