Minimize Ariane 6

Ariane 6 : A next-generation launcher for Europe

Development Status    Ariane Concept    Future Launchers Status    Launch Opportunities  References

ESA (European Space Agency) and European industry are currently developing a new-generation launcher: Ariane 6. This follows the decision taken at the ESA Council meeting at Ministerial level in December 2014, to maintain Europe's leadership in the fast-changing commercial launch service market while responding to the needs of European institutional missions. 1)

This move is associated with a change in the governance of the European launcher sector, based on a sharing of responsibility, cost and risk by ESA and industry. The participating states are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Ariane 6 objectives and main missions:

The overarching aim of Ariane 6 is to provide guaranteed access to space for Europe at a competitive price without requiring public sector support for exploitation. Different concepts have been examined for Ariane 6 such as single- and dual-payloads, solid or cryogenic propulsion for the main stage, and the number of stages (three or more), all to cover a wide range of missions:

• GEO, either directly or through intermediate orbits, in particular GTO and LEO,

• Polar/SSO,

• MEO or MTO,

• other.

The targeted payload performance of Ariane 6 is over 4.5 t for polar/Sun-synchronous orbit missions at 800 km altitude and the injection of two first-generation Galileo satellites. Ariane 6 can loft a payload mass of 4.5–10.5 tonnes in equivalent geostationary transfer orbit.

The exploitation cost of the Ariane 6 launch system is its key driver. Launch service costs will be halved, while maintaining reliability by reusing the trusted engines of Ariane 5. The first flight is scheduled for 2020.

Ariane 6 has a ‘PHH' configuration, indicating the sequence of stages: a first stage using strap-on boosters based on solid propulsion (P) and a second and third stage using cryogenic liquid oxygen and hydrogen propulsion (H).

Ariane 6 provides a modular architecture using either two boosters (Ariane 62) or four boosters (Ariane 64), depending on the required performance. Two or four P120 solid-propellant boosters will be common with Vega-C, an evolution of the current Vega launcher.

The main stage containing liquid oxygen and hydrogen is based around the Vulcain 2 engine of Ariane 5. The upper stage of Ariane 6 builds on developments for the Adapted Ariane 5 ME, and cryogenic propulsion using the Vinci engine. It will be restartable and have direct deorbiting features to mitigate space debris.

The main characteristics of the Ariane 6 concept are:

• The total length of the vehicle is about 62 m,

• The cryogenic main stage holds about 150 tons of propellants, the upper stage holds about 30 t,

• The external diameter of the cryogenic main stage and upper stages including the part that connects the fairing is about 5.4 m.

ESA is overseeing procurement and the architecture of the overall launch system, industry is building the rocket with ArianeGroup as prime contractor and design authority. An industrial cooperation agreement has been signed between ArianeGroup and Avio for the P120C solid motor.


Figure 1: Artist's rendition of the two configurations of Ariane 6 using two boosters, A62 (left) or four boosters A64 (right), image credit: ESA, David Ducros, 2017


Figure 2: Ariane 6 PPH cutaway drawing (image credit: ESA)

The industrial prime contractors, CNES and ArianeGroup, who are responsible for the launch base and launcher respectively, have jointly agreed on developing a common family of test and control systems that will be used in Europe and French Guiana during the build, verification, integration and launch of Ariane 6.

The Ariane 6 launcher will provide Arianespace with new levels of efficiency and flexibility to meet customers' launch services needs across a full range of commercial and institutional missions. To ensure Arianespace's continued competitiveness, this next-generation launcher has been conceived for reduced production costs and design-to-build lead times, all while maintaining the quality and reliability that have made Ariane 5 an industry leader. 2)

Ariane 6 features a modular configuration based on core stages powered by lower and upper liquid propellant modules, which that are supplemented by either two or four strap-on solid rocket motors. Enhancing Ariane 6's competitiveness is the series production of its rocket engines and a technology-sharing approach with Arianespace's Vega C – particularly this lightweight launcher's P120 engine that also will be used in Ariane 6's solid rocket motors.

ArianeGroup, formerly Airbus Safran Launchers, is prime contractor and design authority for Ariane 6, while ESA oversees procurement and architecture of the overall launch system. On 12 August 2015, ESA appointed Airbus Safran Launchers as principal contractor with the new development of the Ariane 6. On 1 July 2017, Airbus Safran Launchers changed its corporate name to ArianeGroup.

The industrial organization put into place for building Ariane 6 aims for maximum efficiency throughout the production cycle, up to delivery to the launch pad where, for greater flexibility, the payload is assembled on the launcher. The creation of European clusters of excellence allows to work with industrial partners via an extended enterprise approach, in order to standardise launcher methods and tools. The contribution of new industrial processes and innovative manufacturing technologies (3D printing, friction-stir welding, laser surface treatment, etc.), combined with a product lifecycle management system that meets the latest standards, helps optimize industrial level production. 3)

The overall goal is to achieve production costs 40 to 50% lower than those of Ariane 5 in order to be competitive in the face of new market demands. With the aim of ensuring continuity of independent European access to space, Ariane 6 should be making its first launch in 2020 and will be fully operational as of 2023, offering a level of reliability equivalent to that of Ariane 5.

Figure 3: At Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, everything is being prepared to accommodate Europe's newest launcher, Ariane 6 (video credit: ESA)



Development status of the Ariane 6 / Vega-C Program

• January 29, 2019: The first qualification model of the P120C solid-fuel motor, configured for Vega-C, was static fired yesterday on the test stand at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. 4)

- Fully loaded with 142 tons of fuel, the 13.5 m long and 3.4 m diameter motor was ignited for a final simulation of liftoff and the first phase of flight.

- During a burn time of 135 seconds, the P120C delivered a maximum thrust of 4650 kN. No anomalies were seen and ,according to initial recorded data, the performance met expectations. A full analysis of these test results will confirm readiness of this motor for Vega-C's debut launch.

- The P120C replaces the current P80 as the first stage motor of Vega-C, significantly increasing performance.

- New features make this motor a proud achievement of European industry. The large motor case made of carbon composite was built in one piece. Advanced manufacturing techniques have been incorporated in horizontal robotic integration of the nozzle, and efficient production has driven down costs in a competitive launchers market.

- This hot firing follows the test of the P120C development model in July last year. The second qualification model, configured for Ariane 6, will be tested later this year.

- Ariane 6 will also use P120C motors as strap-on boosters, either two or four according to the configuration. Building a common motor for Europe's next-generation launch vehicles has benefitted development goals and economies of scale, supporting ESA's goal to maintain independent access to space for Europe.

- ESA, France's CNES space agency, and Europropulsion under contract to Avio and ArianeGroup, collaborated on this test.


Figure 4: The P120C full-scale model solid rocket motor for Ariane 6 and Vega-C, filled with 142 tons of inert propellant, is prepared for further integration with other structures (image credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

• June 14, 2018: The ESA Council met today in Paris to discuss the path towards the future exploitation of Ariane 6. In view of the progress made in the Ariane 6 program, Participating States have decided on the completion of the development up to full operational capability and agreed to fund industrial incentives associated with the development of Ariane 6 and P120C solid rocket motor. 5)

- Participating States also committed to start with the first step of the Ariane 6 and P120C Transition Program. This program supports the evolution from Europe's Ariane 5 to full operational capability of Ariane 6.

- Ariane 6 is Europe's new-generation launcher, designed to secure guaranteed access to space for Europe at an affordable price for European institutional users. It will operate in two configurations: Ariane 62 is fitted with two P120C strap-on boosters while Ariane 64 has four. Ariane 6's maiden flight is planned for mid-2020.

- P120C is the largest carbon-fiber solid propellant booster ever built in one segment at almost 13.5 m long and about 3.4 m in diameter. Two boosters will be used on Ariane 6's maiden flight in 2020.


Figure 5: Artist's view of the four boosters (A64) configuration of Ariane 6 (image credit: ESA-David Ducros)

• February 15, 2018: The re-ignitable Vinci®, engine, which will power the upper stage of the Ariane 6 launcher, has now successfully completed its last two subsystems qualification campaigns (M6 and M7) with 140 engine tests conducted. The tests in campaigns M6 and M7, vital for qualification of the engine subsystems, were carried out on the PF52 bench at the ArianeGroup site in Vernon, France, and on the German Aerospace Center DLR's P4.1 bench in Lampoldshausen, Germany. 6)

- A total of 25 tests (16 for M6 and 9 for M7) were carried out under nominal conditions, and include three major performance "firsts":

a) a test of 1,569 seconds – an unprecedented duration,

b) a series of 20 successful boosts (1 ignition followed by 19 engine re-ignitions), totaling an operating duration of 300 seconds,

c) a continuous burn of 800 seconds in "high operation", i.e. at the maximum thrust for which the engine is designed.

- The purpose of these tests was also to test the Vinci® engine beyond its operational requirements, as it will only require ignition a maximum of 4 times during its missions, with a maximum burn time of 900 seconds in flight.

- Valérie de Korver, Product Manager Vinci® Propulsion System at ArianeGroup, said: "These campaigns went very smoothly and we demonstrated considerable margins with respect to the flight requirements, in particular thanks to a new ignition system and we successfully achieved a number of firsts, such as performing 20 boosts in a single test. This is a major step in demonstrating the ability of the Vinci engine to meet the versatility demands of the Ariane 6 launcher. It is also a new and major milestone for the program and for the teams, who are well aware of the challenges faced in these campaigns and who are always intensely committed to ensuring their success."

- The Vinci® engine was developed by ArianeGroup for Ariane 6 and provides the future European launcher with extreme versatility. Its main feature is its multiple ignition capability: Vinci® will be able to re-ignite in flight as many times as necessary, in order to place several payloads in orbit at different locations, according to the specific needs of the mission. This engine will enable Ariane 6 to carry out all types of missions, regardless of duration and target orbit, particularly the deployment of satellite constellations, for which demand will continue to grow.

- Design authority and industrial lead contractor for the development and operation of the Ariane 6 launcher on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), ArianeGroup coordinates an industrial network of more than 600 companies in 13 European countries, including more than 350 SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises).

• February 2, 2018: Two models of the common solid rocket motor for Ariane 6 and Vega-C are being prepared and tested at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. 7)

- The P120C full-scale model solid rocket motor for Ariane 6 and Vega-C, filled with 142 tons of inert propellant, is tilted from its vertical orientation to horizontal position for further integration with other structures.

- The P120C is the largest solid-propellant motor ever built in one segment, at almost 11.5 m long and about 3.4 m in diameter. Two or four will be strapped to Ariane 6 as boosters for liftoff.

- Vega-C is expected to debut in mid-2019 with P120C as the first-stage motor, which will increase performance from Vega's current 1.5 t to about 2.2 t in a reference 700 km polar orbit.


Figure 6: Photo of the P120 C full-scale model in horizontal position (image credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)


Figure 7: Attaching the nozzle: The nozzle is attached to the P120C full-scale model solid rocket motor for Ariane 6 and Vega-C (image credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

• January 23, 2018: The first hot firing of Ariane 6's Vulcain 2.1 main engine has been performed at the DLR (German Aerospace Center) test facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany. — Further tests will examine the ignition conditions, and the behavior and performance of the engine and its different subsystems. 8)

- The engine, developed by ArianeGroup, has a simplified and more robust nozzle, a gas generator made through additive manufacturing, and an oxygen heater for oxygen tank pressurization. These features lower the cost of the engine and simplify manufacturing.

- During this year, three Vulcain test campaigns in Germany and France will help engineers to decide whether adjustments are needed to optimize the functional, thermal and mechanical behavior, before the start of combined tests.

- In parallel, more than 130 test firings on the Vinci engine powering Ariane 6's upper stage have been carried out. These tests, in particular, have verified Vinci's multiple ignition capabilities. Tests have used the P41 stand at DLR in Lampoldshausen and the PF52 stand at the ArianeGroup site in Vernon, France.


Figure 8: On 10 October 2017, the M1 demonstration flight model of the Vulcain 2.1 main stage cryogenic rocket motor for Ariane 6 arrived in the DLR German Aerospace Center test facility in Lampoldshausen for functional tests. The Vulcain is 3.7 m high, 2.5 m in diameter with a mass of about 2 tons, and will deliver 135 tons of thrust in vacuum (image credit: ArianeGroup Holding)

• January 8, 2018: Watch Ariane 6's Vulcain main engine roar into action in its first test firing at DLR German Aerospace Center test facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany. 9)


Figure 9: In January 2018, Ariane 6's Vulcain 2.1 main stage engine completed its first hot fire test at the DLR German Aerospace Center facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany (image credit: ArianeGroup)

• December 15, 2017: The race is on to build the new launch pad for the Ariane 6 rocket, due to make its maiden voyage in July 2020. Construction is in full swing in French Guiana as Europe builds not only a new rocket but also a new way of launching rockets, in a bid to face down competition from the likes of SpaceX. 10)

- When Euronews visited, around 500 people were active on the site from six in the morning until ten at night, with attention focused on two key elements of the pad - firstly the huge flame trench which will take the hot gases away from the rocket on launch, and the new building in which the Ariane 6 will be built.

• September 14, 2017: Arianespace will launch four new satellites for the Galileo constellation, using two Ariane 62 versions of the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. 11)

- Stéphane Israël, Arianespace Chief Executive Officer, and Paul Verhoef, Director of Navigation at the European Space Agency (ESA), signed the launch contract for four new satellites to join the European satellite navigation system Galileo. The contract will be conducted by ESA on behalf of the European Commission (DG Growth).

- These launches are planned between the end of 2020 and mid-2021, using two Ariane 62 launchers – the configuration of Europe's new-generation launch vehicle that is best suited for the targeted orbit. The contract also provides for the possibility of using the Soyuz launch vehicle from the Guiana Space Center, if needed.

- Both missions will carry a pair of Galileo spacecraft to continue the constellation deployment for Europe's satellite-based navigation system. The satellites, each weighing approximately 750 kg., will be placed in medium earth orbit (MEO) at an altitude of 23,222 km and be part of the Galileo satellite navigation constellation.

• At the end of 2016, ASL became the majority shareholder of Arianespace and changed its name to ArianeGroup on the 1st of July 2017. 12) ArianeGroup & Arianespace now gathers all the competences for designing, procuring, integrating, operating and commercializing launchers.

• November 9, 2016: After a program review completed in September, ESA is now in a position to proceed with the full development of its Ariane 6 and Vega C launch vehicles. Today, the riders to the contracts awarded in August 2015 were signed at ESA headquarters in Paris, France. This confirms the timely continuation of the preparation of Europe's Ariane 6 and its launch complex. 13)

- ASL (Airbus Safran Launchers) is prime contractor and design authority for Ariane 6, with France's CNES space agency as prime contractor for the launch pad and associated facilities at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

- The set-up with ASL is an important change of governance in the European launcher sector. Industry is the design authority and taking full responsibility for developing and exploiting the vehicles, committing to deliver them to ESA and the European institutional customers at specified competitive prices.

- "Ariane 6 is on track for its 2020 maiden flight, achieving full operational capability in 2023," said Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA's Director of Launchers. "The timely availability of Ariane 6 is bound to have a significant impact on the increasingly competitive worldwide launcher market."

• September 2016: Given the short development time for Ariane 6 (decision to start development in dec-2014 for a maiden flight in 2020), it has been decided to follow a concurrent engineering approach between ESA acting as Launch System Architect and the two prime contractors (ASL and CNES) in the elaboration of the Operational Concept. 14)

• August 12 ,2015: Today, ESA signed contracts for the development of the Ariane 6 new-generation launcher, its launch base and the Vega C evolution of the current small launcher. 15)

- The contracts, signed at ESA's Paris Head Office with ASL (Airbus Safran Launchers), France's CNES space agency and ELV(European Launch Vehicle) of Italy, respectively, cover all development work on Ariane 6 and its launch base for a maiden flight in 2020, and on Vega C for its 2018 debut.

- "These contracts will allow the development of a family of European launchers, highly competitive in the world market and ensuring autonomous access to space at fully competitive prices for ESA's Member States," said Jan Woerner, Director General of ESA. "They are an important change of governance in the European launcher sector, with industry being the design authority and taking full responsibility in the development and exploitation of the launchers, and committing to deliver them to ESA and the European institutional actors at specified competitive prices."

- ASL and ELV are working closely together on the P120C solid-propellant motor that will form Vega C's first stage and Ariane's strap-on boosters.

- Ariane's modular approach will offer either two boosters (Ariane 62) or four boosters (Ariane 64), depending on the required performance.

- The site of the launch pad for Ariane 6 at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana has been chosen, and prime contractor CNES is already excavating the site. The new complex will also include facilities for preparing the launcher.

- The three contracts follow the decision taken at the ESA Council meeting at Ministerial level held in Luxemburg in December 2014 to maintain Europe's leadership in the fast-changing commercial launch service market while responding to the needs of European institutional missions.


Figure 10: ESA signed contracts for the development of the Ariane 6 new‑generation launcher, its launch base and the Vega C evolution of the current ESA small launcher. From left to right: Alain Charmeau, CEO/President of ASL; Pierluigi Pirrelli, CEO of ELV; Jan Wörner, ESA Director General; Gaele Winters, ESA's Director of Launchers; and Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of CNES (image credit: ESA, N. Imbert-Vier, 2015)

• On June 10, 2015, the French government reiterated its formal approval of the sale of state ownership in the Arianespace launch consortium to Airbus Safran Launchers, a joint venture set up to develop and produce Europe's next-generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle. 16)

- In a statement issued following a meeting with the French defense, research and industry ministers, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Arianespace is destined "to be controlled by Airbus Safran Launchers via a transfer of Arianespace shares currently held by CNES," the French space agency.

- "Negotiations on the terms of this industrial operation will continue on this basis while respecting the usual procedures," Valls continued. "These discussions will be conducted in close collaboration with our European partners and other actors from the French and European space industry with the common objective of writing a new page in the history of Europe's space sector."

- Formed late last year to initiate development of a next-generation successor to Europe's Ariane 5 – known as Ariane 6 – Airbus Safran Launchers currently holds a 41% stake in Arianespace, while CNES holds a little more than 34%. The new joint venture has been pushing for a quick transfer of Arianespace equity to the Airbus Safran Launchers, and negotiations have been underway for several months as to the launch consortium's value.

• December 2, 2014: ESA today concluded a productive one-day Council meeting at ministerial level in Luxembourg. Ministers of ESA Member States agreed on the development of a family of new launchers, Ariane 6 and Vega C, and approved funding for the International Space Station and space exploration. - In addition, Ministers set a course for ESA to remain an independent intergovernmental space organization. 17)

Ministers adopted three Resolutions:

1) "Resolution on Europe's access to space", covering the development of Ariane 6 and Vega C.

2) "Resolution on Europe's space exploration strategy", covering ESA's three destinations for exploration (LEO low-Earth orbit, Moon and Mars)

3) "Resolution on ESA evolution", covering the vision for ESA until 2030.



Ariane 6 Concept

The configuration of Ariane 6 is a modular two-stage launcher with strap-on boosters in two different configurations (see Fig. 1); they allow covering a broad range of commercial and institutional applications. 18)

Ariane 62 with two strap-on solid-propellant boosters will be used primarily for single-passenger missions with medium-sized satellites.

Ariane 64 with four strap-on boosters with a payload lift performance set at 10.5 tons to GTO in dual launch is more dedicated to larger payloads.

Both configurations include a cryogenic main stage powered by an upgraded Vulcain 2 engine derived from Ariane 5 – and a cryogenic upper stage based on the new Vinci engine previously planned to fly on the midlife evolution of Ariane 5 A5ME.

The P120C strap-on motors are commonly developed for Ariane 6 and VEGA-C evolution of VEGA launcher. More details on the configuration and design of Ariane 6 are presented in Ref. 14).


Figure 11: Ariane 6 main characteristics, configurations & performances (image credit: ArianeGroup)

Ariane 6 Industrialization Concept

ArianeGroup has engaged in a new way to develop launchers in Europe adapting the "Lean" management, development and manufacturing approaches to the launchers business. It stands on 4 pillars and a basis displayed in Figure 12.


Figure 12: The Ariane Way (image credit: ArianeGroup)

Excellence Clusters

Ariane 6 industrial policy was fostered by the European Launcher sector reform with new governance, new streamlined industrial set-up and one single contract at completion to ensure continuous development.

The Airbus-Safran Joint Venture creation and more recently the creation of ArianeGroup are major steps towards a new industrial set up since they:

Create the conditions for Ariane 6 success: revamped industrial set-up required to bring Ariane 6 as quick, as performant and as affordable as possible to the market;

Integrate launcher complementary competences: combine launcher system prime and integration expertise with critical capabilities in solid and liquid propulsion;

Improve competitiveness of the future European launcher sector to adapt to stringent budget constraints, changing demand and enhanced competition;

Build closer relations between Industry and Arianespace with the creation of ArianeGroup: industry will be exposed to market risks, to answer in an agile manner to customers demand and industrial operations in Kourou will be streamlined.

Another step is the reorganization of the launcher industrial scheme through the creation of clusters of excellence. Industrial breakdown is driven by the gathering of competences around dedicated industrial partners. This organization for the Ariane 6 project is presented in Table 1 and illustrated on Figure 13.

Launch System Architect


Launch Base


Launcher, LLPM/Vulcain, ULPM/ Vinci, ESR


Solid Rocket Motor


Cryotechnical Systems

Air Liquide

Metallic Structures

MT Aerospace - Augsburg

Thrust frames

Airbus Defence & Space, The Netherlands

Composite aerostructures

Airbus Defence & Space, CASA, Spain



Mechanical ground equipment



Airbus Defence & Space Electronics/ CRISA

Thrust Vector Controls


Table 1: Ariane 6 Excellence Clusters

LLPM (Lower Liquid Propulsion Module)
ULPM (Upper Liquid Propulsion Module)
ESR (Equipped Solid SRM (Solid Rocket Motor))


Figure 13: Ariane 6 Industrial Flow Overview (image credit: ArianeGroup)

Maximize the use of industrial assets

The design of Ariane 6 production system optimizes the use of industrial assets and limits the need for new ones. No new investment is decided without sound lean index, overall equipment effectiveness, added value surface ratio, etc.

The current Ariane 5 production system allows reusing existing facilities (buildings, test benches and tools), with limited adaptations - including supplier assets - for producing the 1st set of hardware before industrial implementation in existing buildings. The increases of launch rate will be achieved by increasing the effectiveness of the current Ariane 5 and Vega exploitation facilities. Among other, the main manufacturing, Assembly and Integration and Test facilities will be reused such as:

• BIP (Bâtiment Integration Propulseur),

• BEAP (Banc d'Essai des Etages d'Acceleration à Poudre),

• PF50 P5 (Vulcain Test Benches),

• P4.1 and PF52 P5.2. (Vinci Test Benches)

Facilities will be shared with Vega-C for the Solid Rocket Motor for a faster industrialization and learning curve.

Stabilized Configuration

This industrial setup will reach maximum efficiency if it manages to be disturbance-free. It thus needs to be designed to have a maximum stability of manufacturing and integration in the exploitation phase. This robustness is ensured by an alignment of product and process designs during development phase. It is performed in a concurrent engineering mode, with common freeze of specifications, product and process designs.

Standardized and stabilized manufacturing processes, & means and tools are also implemented to reach a "right first-time" production. This is also supported by the implementation of lean principles and continuous improvements methods at all levels as detailed in the next section.

Lean thinking is a mindset promoted in Ariane 6 design of products and processes driven by natural and simple principles:

Fluidity: the aim is to reach continuous flow so emphasis is set on the identification and elimination of wastes & unnecessary actions.

Small Steps: improvements do not need to be major breakthroughs all the time. The major change stands in continuous improvement.

Evolution: it is important to keep the ability to evolve in order to allow agility at all levels.

Common sense: the simplest ideas are often the easiest and most efficient. It is important to be inspired by what might have worked elsewhere.

Lean implementation relies on methods and tools. In order to learn to see the value versus the wastes, the main tool used is value stream mapping, which helps quantifying wastes: waiting (work in progress), setup, rework, machine breakdown…and which measures the lean index of a process (value added time vs. total lead time). Multi-function value stream mappings had already started on Ariane 5 processes at the workplaces and led to structured improvement plans.

The use of 5S is also generalized in order to standardize work and that operators concentrate on value-added operation. Operators are focused on "value", empowered to improve and with a strong support from management. This results in work preparation, kitting & synchronized logistics.

These principles have been directly implemented in the design of the main integration facilities of Ariane 6 Liquid Propulsion Modules and Solid Rocket Motors.

The objective being to reduce lead time by 2 compared to Ariane 5, horizontal integration has been implemented in these facilities. Indeed, it allows having "flat", simple and versatile buildings and more transparency and reactive support on the shop floor.

The discipline of flow: The lead time and production flow of Ariane 6 are major drivers for its future success in exploitation. Indeed, recent years have shown that the market requires agility and reactivity to address rapidly evolving customer needs. The lean principles described will not only provide local optimizations of the manufacturing and integration processes but are applied at a larger level to perform an end-to-end optimization of the production flow. It will allow managing the production system of Ariane 6 from raw material to launch in a seamless flow.

This optimization is made possible thanks to the integration of core competences at ArianeGroup level and the strong partnerships set with key industrial partners through the Extended Enterprise.

As a result, the production means of Ariane 6 will act as a single facility with a single flow. The Ariane 6 industrial policy is thus allowing a customer-pulled production where the flow is synchronized at customer takt-time. In order to solve the paradigm of reacting to market's demand while keeping manufacturing at a pace as stable as possible, production needs will be determined and updated through a rolling forecast.

This industrial policy is a major evolution compared to the "production-pushed" approach and is key to the economic efficiency and overall agility of Ariane 6 launcher system.


Figure 14: Ariane 6 Launcher System "Production-Pull" Development Logic (image credit: ArianeGroup)


Ariane 6 Program Status

In order to perform a first Ariane 6 launch in 2020 and reach a full-operation capability of 11 launches per year in 2023, the development logic applied on Ariane 6 does not follow the traditional V-cycle. Based on the lessons learned from Ariane 5 program but also from Airbus aircraft development experience, a "production-pull" logic is implemented. The main principle is that one single launcher definition demonstrates the compliance of both product and manufacturing/operational process with respect to its requirements in 3 incremental qualification steps. The correct progression over this logic is checked through a series of MG (Maturity Gates) assessing that the correct level of maturity is reached throughout the development (Figure 14).

Maturity Gate #6 ("start of S1 manufacturing") is split in 2 parts:

MG6.1 to authorize the start of QM (Qualification Models) manufacturing. The associated review was held in April 2017.

MG6.2 to authorize the start of Flight Models (FM) manufacturing. It will be held in November / December 2017.

The MG6.1 review concentrated on the maturity of the joint convergence process for:

• Launcher specification, design qualification logic;

• Industrialization logic and supply chain management;

• End-to-End manufacturing, assembly, integration and tests processes and operations;

• Standard Operations Procedures and critical processes.

This maturity gate was passed successfully and allowed confirming that the industrialization policy is correctly implemented and on-track with respect to program's schedule. The reviewers praised the fact that significant emphasis is put on industrialization in a development review.

Next MG6.2 review will mainly assess the correct progress over the roadmap presented at MG6.1. It will allow triggering the start of manufacturing of Ariane 6's first flight model.

Vulcain 2.1 & Vinci engines

Vulcain 2.1 first engine assembly has been completed during summer 2017. It used the new P3M tool which supports the operators during assembly by positioning the engine in an optimal position at each integration step. This mean drives down the costs associated to operations by 40%. An illustration of the first Vulcain 2.1 engine on the P3M is provided in Figure 15. The first tests at P5 DLR facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany will take place end of 2017.


Figure 15: First Vulcain 2.1 engine assembled on new P3M mean (image credit: ArianeGroup)

The Vinci re-ignitable engine qualification progresses as scheduled. The first flight qualification model has been delivered end of June 2017 and the dynamic qualification tests were performed at IABG. On the 22nd of September 2017, the 128th Vinci engine test was successfully performed at P4.1 test bench (DLR - Lampoldshausen) with a duration equal to the nominal functioning duration of the engine.


Figure 16: Vinci combustion chamber (left) and first APU 3D-printed gas generator (right), image credit: ArianeGroup

APU (Auxiliary Power Unit): Ariane 6 Upper stage features a gas generator able to pressurize LOX tanks during flight. This Auxiliary Power Unit is fully manufactured using Additive Layer Manufacturing. The first 3D-printed APU has been produced and tests have begun.

Solid Rocket Motor: The inert model of the P120C was delivered to Guiana: first filling tests have been performed. The nozzle components have been successfully fire-tested. The 1st firing test (DM model) is scheduled in April 2018 in Guiana.


Figure 17: P120C composite body (left), nozzle firetests (right), image credit: ArianeGroup


In Europe, the facilities for the manufacturing and integration of Ariane 6 liquid propellant tanks have begun in Augsburg, Bremen & Les Mureaux. 3D-immersion rooms have been deployed on ArianeGroup's site to start rehearsing integration operations and setting up & testing standard procedures without waiting for the facilities to be completed. The Functional Test Facility is also being installed in Les Mureaux to perform the avionics real-time, hardware in-the-loop tests.

In Guiana, the preparation of the Ariane 6 Launch Base by CNES has begun. The combined tests between the Launch Base and Ariane 6 Qualification model will start end of 2019. A new and common building is prepared for Regulus (Joint Venture between ArianeGroup & Avio) to manufacture P120 boosters for Ariane 6 and Vega-C launchers.

• April 26, 2018: CNES is in charge of the CSG (Guiana Space Center) ground segment. CNES has selected the Space Alliance, formed by Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space, to extend the fiber-optic communications system (STFO) at CSG. The extended system will be ready to meet the needs of Ariane 6 customers by the end of 2019. The STFO communications system acts as an interface between launch customers' test benches and satellites throughout the different launch preparation phases at CSG, including spacecraft fueling, satellite encapsulation under the launch vehicle fairing and launch pad operations. In operation since the 1990s, this system will now be extended and upgraded to serve Ariane 6 customers. 19)

- The new system is specially designed to meet the needs of the very high throughput satellite (VHTS) market, as it extends radio-frequency (RF) services to 40 GHz and allows the simultaneous operation of two satellites in Ka-band. Telespazio France, as prime contractor, and Thales Alenia Space in Spain, as subcontractor, will bring to the project their complementary skills in system engineering, communications networks, software systems, RF and fiber-optics, as well as in the operation and maintenance of the current STFO system.

- Telespazio is already responsible for highly critical and demanding activities in the CSG, and this is the company's first opportunity to take an active role also in the installation of the new Ariane 6 launcher in French Guiana.


Launcher System: The next milestones for the Launcher System are the MG6.2 end of 2017 that will trigger the production of first Ariane 6 flight model and then MG7 mid-2018 that will focus on the critical design review of the launcher system.

Increased Versatility: Ariane 6 versatility has been increased by considering additional upper composite configurations thus offering a large array of solutions to customers (Figure 18). Ariane 6 now features an auxiliary payload system to embark payloads from 1kg to a few hundreds of kg as secondary passengers when performance allows.

For the constellation market, it has been established that Ariane 6 is a suitable solution:

• With its re-ignitable Vinci engine, Ariane 6 offers flexibility in the deployment of constellations by delivering part of the payloads on one orbit and the rest on another. Ariane 6 is in particular able to deliver payloads on two different orbital planes i.e. with different longitudes of the ascending node.

• It has been demonstrated that the capacities of the versatile Upper Stage allow separating several tens of payloads with a non-collision between them guaranteed overall several days.


Figure 18: Illustration of Ariane 6 possible missions and configurations (image credit: ArianeGroup)



ESA's Future Launchers Preparatory Program

On 22 March 2018, the full-scale demonstrator of a thrust chamber for an upper-stage rocket motor, called ETID (Expander-cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator), arrived at the DLR (German Aerospace Center) test facility in Lampoldshausen for functional tests. It incorporates the newest propulsion systems that will help prove new technologies, materials and manufacturing techniques that offer higher performance at lower cost for Europe's future launchers. 20)

ETID is a precursor of the next generation of 10 ton rocket engines. Some of the technologies could also be used on upgrades to the existing Vinci, which powers the upper stage of Ariane 6.

The Prometheus precursor of a 100 ton class rocket engine intended for next-generation launch vehicles will also benefit from the knowledge gained during demonstration, for example on additively manufactured parts or low-cost combustion chamber materials.

Upper-stage engines operate in specific conditions such as vacuum and weightlessness that are difficult to reproduce on Earth, and involve significant development risks that have to be mitigated.

From April to the end of the year, ETID will be ignited up to 20 times with each firing lasting 120 s, in conditions similar to those in space with a near-vacuum provided by the test stand. Led by ArianeGroup in Germany, GKN Aerospace in Sweden, Aerospace Propulsion Products in the Netherlands, Safran Aero Boosters in Belgium and Carinthian Tech Research in Austria have all provided hardware for the tests.

At least two versions of each piece of hardware have been built, resulting in at least three different test configurations to be hot-fired, proving different technologies and methods of manufacture such as additive manufacturing, laser ignition and cost-efficient materials. In addition, components will be tested to lay the foundations for a future ‘smart' engine.

Through its Future Launchers Preparatory Program, ESA aims to increase the future competitiveness of European launchers by creating ready-made technical solutions, which can be transferred for quick development projects with minimal cost, effort and risk.

"New demonstrators and evolutions of existing engines integrate new technologies, industrial processes and global trends to meet the competitive long-term challenges of the European space transportation sector. Hot-firing tests on such demonstrators are the best way we have to test propulsion technologies in representative conditions," commented Kate Underhill, lead engineer.


Figure 19: A full-scale demonstrator of the thrust chamber for an upper-stage rocket engine incorporating the newest propulsion technologies is being prepared for its first hot firing (image credit: ArianeGroup)



Status of ESA's Future Launchers Preparatory Program

• January 11, 2019: Here's the finalized frame of the mobile gantry that will cover Ariane 6 pre-launch. Completed on November 30 2018, even though it is 90 meters tall and weighs more than the Eiffel Tower, the entire structure is able to move on rails to uncover Ariane 6 as shortly as possible before takeoff. 21)


Figure 20: Photo of the Ariane 6 future launch site (image credit: ESA/CNES – Sentinel: G. Berthier)

• December 6, 2018: This has been an intense year for Ariane 6 development, with progress boosted across Europe: plants are manufacturing new parts using novel methods, all engines have been tested, and the construction of launch facilities is well underway. 22)

- ESA has worked with an industrial network led by prime contractor ArianeGroup, of more than 600 companies in 13 European countries, including 350 small- and medium-sized enterprises, to fine-tune the design and start production. Meanwhile, France's CNES space agency has been preparing its launch facilities at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. 23) 24)

• October 25, 2018: Today, the ESA Council met at ministerial level in Madrid to discuss the proposal of ESA's Director General Jan Wörner for a "United Europe in Space". — At this meeting, a joint statement on the institutional exploitation of Ariane 6 and Vega-C was signed by Jan Wörner, ESA Director General; Roberto Battiston, President at Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI); Javier Ponce, Director General at the Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial (CDTI); Jean-Yves Le Gall, President at the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES); Walther Pelzer, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR); and Mauro Dell' Ambrogio, Secretary of State of the Swiss Confederation. 25)

- Through this Statement, the signatories express their full support to the European launcher industry and to Ariane 6 and Vega-C. They recognize the benefit of aggregating their institutional demand for launch services to ensure an independent, cost-effective, affordable, and reliable access to space for Europe.

- The Joint Statement also establishes a high-level forum with the objective to exchange on economic and financial trends on the worldwide launch service market, launch services needs for their missions, and consolidation of a European institutional launch planning. This forum will be open to all European institutional customers of launch services and interested potential parties sharing these objectives.


Figure 21: European institutions support Europe's launcher industry. At the ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level in Madrid, Spain on 25 October 2018, European institutions signed a Joint Statement on European Institutional Exploitation of Ariane 6 and Vega-C.

Legend to Figure 21: Pictured from left to right: Javier Ponce Martínez, Director General at CDTI; Walther Pelzer, member of the DLR Executive Board; Thomas Jarzombek, Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy; Pedro Duque, Spain's Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities; Jan Wörner, ESA Director General; Mauro Dell' Ambrogio, State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation; Stefano Gualandris, Special Advisor to State Secretary Giancarlo Giorgetti; Jean-Yves Le Gall, President at CNES; Roberto Battiston, President at ASI.

The statement was signed by the European Space Agency, the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), the Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial (CDTI), the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) and the Swiss Confederation.


Figure 22: Artist's view of Ariane 6 and Vega-C (image credit: ESA, D. Ducros)

Ariane 6 is Europe's newest launcher, designed to extend guaranteed access to space for Europe at a competitive price. Fully versatile, it is capable of carrying out all types of missions to all orbits. It features a modular design with two versions: Ariane 62, fitted with two P120C boosters, and Ariane 64, with four. Its maiden flight is planned for mid-2020.

Vega-C is expected to debut at the end of 2019 with P120C as the first-stage motor, which will increase performance from Vega's current 1.5 t to about 2.2 t in a reference 700 km polar orbit. The additional performance, improved avionics, mission flexibility and expanded fairing volume can capture a wider market of satellites.

• September 20, 2018: The 700 ton steel table that will support Ariane 6 at liftoff is now on the pad at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. 26)

- This structure is so large that it arrived in parts by ship in February, was then welded together and fitted with equipment at a preparation area about 250 m from the launch pad.

- Moving this giant 4 m high, 20 m long and 18 m wide table into its permanent position on the center of the pad is complex. Four hydraulic jacks lifted the table, then two trollies moved the table to the edge of the launch pad. A temporary railway and a mechanical guidance system helped roll the table into position over the center of the pad where it will be lowered with millimeter precision into its final position in the coming days. - Further mechanical, fluidic and electrical equipment will be installed inside and outside the table.

- Activities at Europe's Spaceport continue to make headway with the next major works involving the integration of the mast as well as the exhaust ‘deflector' that will sit at the base of the concrete flame duct reaching 25 m below the launch table.

- Ariane 6's first flight is planned for mid-2020.

• September 18, 2018: At the end of 2019, Vega-C will be launched from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana increasing performance from Vega's current 1.5 t to about 2.2 t in its reference 700 km polar orbit, with no increase in launch costs. 27)

- Vega-C's first stage is based on the P120, the largest single segment carbon fiber solid-propellant rocket motor ever built. It was successfully tested in July 2018. Its development relies on new technologies derived from Vega's current first stage P80 motor. Two or four P120C motors will also be used for the liftoff boosters on Ariane 6.

- Vega-C's 3.3 m diameter fairing will accommodate larger payloads such as Earth observation satellites of more than two tonnes, and ESA's Space Rider reentry vehicle.

- The Vega launch pad and mobile gantry are being modified to accommodate Vega-C leading into a period when launch facilities will accommodate both vehicles.

• September 11, 2018: Arianespace is present at World Satellite Business Week (WSBW) from September 10 to 14 in Paris, confirming the attractiveness of its launcher family with the announcement of two contracts for Ariane 6: the first with Eutelsat as part of a launch services agreement involving five satellites; and the second with France's CNES space agency and the country's DGA defense procurement agency for the CSO-3 ( Composante Spatiale Optique-3) satellite of the MUSIS (Multinational Space-based Imaging System) program. A third contract also was signed recently with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for Ariane 5 missions to orbit two satellites. 28)

- Arianespace's backlog is now 59 launches to be carried out during the coming years, including three on Vega C and five on Ariane 6 – the new launchers slated to make their maiden flights in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

- As World Satellite Business Week opened its doors, Arianespace and Eutelsat announced the signature of a multi-year multiple-launch agreement concerning five satellites to be launched through 2027, making Eutelsat the first commercial Ariane 6 customer with geostationary orbit satellite payloads. For institutional missions, after the two launch contracts signed in 2017 for the European Commission and ESA's Galileo constellation, CNES and the DGA have chosen the A62 version of Ariane 6 (with two boosters) to launch their CSO-3 satellite. These orders clearly reflect the competitiveness and versatility of Ariane 6, which will be available in two versions to handle all orbits and multiple payload configurations under the fairing.

• July 16, 2018: Today's hot firing of the P120C solid-propellant motor at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana proves its flight-worthiness for use on Vega-C next year and on Ariane 6 from 2020. 29) 30)

- This marks an important milestone in the development schedule of Europe's new-generation launchers, designed to boost our autonomy in the space arena, and maintain Europe's global competitiveness.

- The test lasted 135 seconds simulating the complete burn time from liftoff and through the first phase of flight. No anomalies were seen and the performance met expectations, though full analysis will take several months.

- The P120C is 13.5 m long and 3.4 m in diameter and is made using a carbon composite material and built in one segment. It will replace the current P80 as the first stage motor of Vega-C. Two or four P120Cs will be strapped onto Ariane 6 as boosters for liftoff.

- This test was a collaboration between ESA, France's CNES space agency, and Europropulsion under contract to Avio and ArianeGroup. — The next static firing will occur at the end of this year with the P120C qualification motor.


Figure 23: The hot firing of the development model of the P120C solid fuel rocket motor at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on 16 July 2018, proves the design for use on Vega-C next year and on Ariane 6 from 2020 (image credit: ESA, CNES)

• July 12, 2018: Arianespace has forged forward with a production line, named the B-Line, that includes the world's most powerful robot, capable of handling nozzles weighing in excess of 2 tons, measuring nearly 3 meters in height and 2.2 meters in diameter. The B-Line is for manufacturing the solid rocket booster P120C motor being used by both future European launchers, Ariane 6 and Vega-C. In doing so they have officially opened a facility at Le Haillan, near Bordeaux, in the heart of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region. 31)

- The production line (known as the B-Line), to produce nozzles for the solid rocket booster P120C motor is the first of a new series of production lines for Ariane 6, which was inaugurated by ArianeGroup in 2018, while the P120C booster will be tested at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou.

- And there's more, including the stage assembly buildings for Ariane 6 in Bremen, Germany, and Les Mureaux, France, which are also being finalized in preparation for the first Ariane 6 flight, scheduled for mid-2020.

- This 1,600 m2 unit, christened B-Line, is designed to produce up to 35 nozzles per year for the P120C solid propellant booster, an output that is three times higher than that of the current Ariane 5 boosters.

- The P120C (for "Common") is the core of the rationalization process for the European launchers range, as it will be used for the boosters powering the Ariane 62 (2 boosters) and Ariane 64 (4 boosters) as well as for the first stage of the Vega-C launcher. Its lift-off thrust can reach more than 4500 kN and, when loaded with 142 tons of propellant, the booster can function in flight for 130 seconds. It is assembled in French Guiana by Europropulsion, a 50/50 subsidiary of ArianeGroup and Avio.

- Alain Charmeau, CEO of ArianeGroup stated that the nozzle produced on the new B-Line in Le Haillan contributes to meeting the targets of the Ariane 6 and Vega-C programs, with optimized costs and shorter cycles, based on a simplified design and the use of innovative technologies and processes. He wishes to thank all the teams at ArianeGroup and those of their industrial partners, who have demonstrated their adaptability in enabling this new production unit to be delivered in record time, thus contributing to the success of the P120C program. With this B-Line in Bordeaux and the V-Line in Vernon in Normandy, inaugurated at the end of 2016 for final assembly of the Vinci® and Vulcain®2.1 engines for Ariane 6, ArianeGroup has unique production resources and know-how in the field of solid and liquid propulsion. They are supplementing these resources with the Ariane 6 stage assembly buildings currently under construction in Bremen, Germany, for the upper stage and at Les Mureaux, in France, for the main stage. With these facilities, ArianeGroup and its industrial partners will be ready for the first launch of Vega-C in 2019 and of Ariane 6 in 2020.

• July 9, 2018: This week, the largest solid rocket motor ever built in one piece will be test fired at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana for the first time. This important milestone validates the booster for use on Vega-C next year and on Ariane 6 from 2020. 32)

- The P120C is 13.5 m long and 3.4 m in diameter, contains 142 tons of solid propellant and provides a maximum thrust of 4615 kN (in vacuum) over a burn time of about 135 s.

- The design builds on existing expertise and lessons learned with Vega's P80 first stage motor. P120C will replace P80 as the first stage motor of Vega-C. Two or four P120Cs will be strapped onto Ariane 6 as boosters for liftoff.

- All main components of the motor such as nozzle, igniter, solid propellant, and insulated motor case have already been tested separately. This static firing will prove these technologies, materials and production techniques in combination and validate the behavior of the assembled motor.

- The test stand with the tools and equipment that will secure the P120C for its test firing, have had to be modified or developed to accommodate this huge motor.

- Recently a full-scale model of the P120C filled with inert propellant allowed engineers to verify tools, check connections and perfect procedures.

- Information gathered during this static firing will allow engineers to compare their numerical models against observed reality to consolidate the P120C design.

- This will guide the design of the P120C qualification motor that will be static fired at the end of the year.


Figure 24: Largest-ever solid rocket motor poised for first hot firing (image credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

• June 20, 2018: Fully loaded with 142 tons of solid fuel, the development model of the P120C rocket motor was transferred from the integration building to the test stand at the beginning of June 2018 to prepare for its first static hot firing at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. 33)


Figure 25: P120C rocket motor transfer to test stand at Europe's Spaceport. The P120C is 13.5 m long and 3.4 m in diameter, contains 142 tons of solid propellant and is the largest-ever solid rocket motor built in one piece (image credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)


Figure 26: P120C rocket motor transfer to test stand (image credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

• June 21, 2018: Aviation and space technology company MT Aerospace AG in Augsburg, Germany, a subsidiary of the technology group OHB SE, has officially opened the new production facilities for the Ariane 6. 34)

- MT Aerospace has built a new hall in Augsburg with a floor area of around 2,500 m2, retooled a further production hall and digitized its entire development and production operations with the financial support of ESA (European Space Agency). State-of-the-art welding systems, machine-to-machine communications as well as modernized drilling and riveting robots ensure more efficient and cheaper production processes.

- With an industrial contribution of a good 10 percent, MT Aerospace is playing a crucial role in the development and industrialization of the Ariane 6 launcher system. At the heart of the productivity gains and this quantum technological leap is the large FSW (Friction Stir Welding) system. Installed at the beginning of 2018, the system for welding light metals is one of a kind anywhere in the world. The new process permits efficient light-weight engineering, permitting considerable weight savings, something which is a crucial factor in aviation and aerospace engineering.

- MT Aerospace CEO Hans J. Steininger said with the company's leap into the Industry 4.0 era, the firm is tripling productivity and playing a material role in driving forward technological innovations and the competitiveness of the future Ariane 6 launch vehicle.


Figure 27: Guests of honor from politics and the industry attending the inauguration of the production facilities for the new European launch vehicle Ariane 6 (image credit: MT Aerospace AG)

• June 15, 2018: Yesterday's complex hot fire test of an engine technology demonstrator, was the first in a series of planned tests guiding Europe's next-generation upper-stage rocket engine design. 35) 36)


Figure 28: An engine technology demonstrator was integrated in the P3.2 vacuum chamber at the DLR German Aerospace Center test facility in Lampoldshausen for a first hot fire test on 14 June 2018. This was the first in a series of planned tests guiding Europe's next-generation upper-stage rocket engine design (image credit: DLR / ArianeGroup)

- By the end of the year, the ETID (Expander-cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator) will be ignited 20 times with each firing lasting up to 120 seconds on a test stand that provides a near-vacuum environment similar to space.

- Engineers will use the results from the test campaign to determine the hardware characteristics, including a precise thrust measurement to determine its "specific impulse" – indicating the exact performance of the engine design. Its results also have relevance for the in-development Vinci engine, which powers the upper stage of Ariane 6.

- Led by ArianeGroup in Germany, the ETID project is part of ESA's Future Launchers Preparatory Program.



ESA's Light Satellite Launch Opportunities Initiative

Vega, Vega-C and Ariane-6 are set to offer low-cost, standardized launch services for small satellites under 500 kg, with a first opportunity in 2019. Though small satellites are increasing their share of the space market with many valuable applications, the opportunities to reach space often fall short of meeting their mission needs. 37)

ESA's light satellite launch opportunities initiative is investigating possible low-cost launch services based on Ariane-6, Vega and Vega-C efficiently combining payloads in the same mission and offering a standardized service to customers. The aim is to serve a wide variety of small satellites, from CubeSats to microsats and minisats, technology demonstrators to mega-constellations. While services would initially serve European institutional needs, the broader long-term objective is to reach the commercial market.

A series of proof-of-concept flights will demonstrate that Europe can provide economically sustainable access to space for light satellite missions. The first is a rideshare mission planned for early 2019 on Vega using the versatile Small Satellites Mission Service dispenser, designed to deploy multiple light satellites below 500 kg.

This will bring socioeconomic benefits to Europe, particularly in the light satellite applications business, and optimize the Ariane-6 and Vega launch capacities managed by Arianespace at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Activities started on 16 February 2018 with the prime contractor Arianespace, and with Arianegroup and Avio for the Ariane-6 and Vega-C launcher systems, respectively.


Figure 29: Vega's versatile Small Satellites Mission Service dispenser developed within ESA's Light satellite Launch opportunities initiative is designed to deploy multiple light satellites below 500 kg (image credit: ESA) 38)


Figure 30: ESA's Light satellite Launch opportunities initiative is investigating possible low-cost launch service solutions based on Ariane-6, Vega and Vega-C that efficiently combine payloads in the same mission and offer a standardized service to customers (image credit: ESA)


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The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (

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