Ariane 6 : A next-generation launcher for Europe
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,
• MEO or MTO,
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.
Development status of the Ariane 6 Program
• 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. 4)
- 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. 5)
- 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 3: Photo of the P120 C full-scale model in horizontal position (image credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)
Figure 4: 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. 6)
- 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 5: 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. 7)
Figure 6: 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. 8)
- 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. 9)
- 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. 10) 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. 11)
- 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. 12)
• 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. 13)
- 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 7: 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. 14)
- 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. 15)
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. 16)
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. 12).
Figure 8: 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 9.
Figure 9: The Ariane Way (image credit: ArianeGroup)
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 10.
Table 1: Ariane 6 Excellence Clusters
LLPM (Lower Liquid Propulsion Module)
Figure 10: 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.
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 11: 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 11).
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 12. The first tests at P5 DLR facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany will take place end of 2017.
Figure 12: 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 13: 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 14: 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.
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 15). 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 15: 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. 17)
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 16: 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)
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. 18)
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 17: 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) 19)
Figure 18: 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)
1) "Ariane 6," ESA, 12 July 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Transportation/Launch_vehicles/Ariane_6
3) "Ariane 6: Coming in 2020," ArianeGroup, URL: https://www.ariane.group/en/commercial-launch-services/ariane-6/
4) "140 successful tests and several "firsts" for Vinci, the engine for Ariane 6," Arianegroup, 15 Feb. 2018, URL: https://www.safran-group.com/media/140-successful
5) "P120C full-scale model is set to horizontal," ESA, 2 Feb. 2018, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2018/02/P120C_full-scale_model_is_set_to_horizontal
6) "First hot firing of Ariane 6's Vulcain engine," ESA, 23 Jan. 2018, URL: http://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Transportation/First
7) "Vulcain 2.1 hot firing," ESA, 8 Jan. 2018, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2018/01/Vulcain_2.1_hot_firing
8) "ESA Euronews: Ariane 6," ESA, 15 Dec. 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2017/12/ESA_Euronews_Ariane_6
9) "First Ariane 6 contract: Arianespace to orbit four Galileo satellites on two Ariane 62 launches," Arianespace, 14 Sept. 2017, URL: http://www.arianespace.com/press-release/first
10) "Airbus Safran Launchers to Become ArianeGroup," ASL, 17 May, 2017, URL: https://www.ariane.group/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/New-name-_EN.pdf
11) "Ariane 6 on track," ESA, 9 Nov. 2016, URL: http://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Transportation/Ariane_6_on_track
12) Emmanuelle David, Sonia Lemercier, Benoit Pouffary, Pier Domenico Resta, Pierre Guilhem, Laurent Le Querrec, Stephane Haessler, "Elaboration of Ariane 6 operational concept with a concurrent engineering approach," 67th IAC (International Astronautical Congress), Guadalajara, Mexico, 26-30 September 2016, paper: IAC-16-D2.2, URL: http://elib.dlr.de/107548/1/IAC-16%2CD2%2C2%2C5%2Cx35323.pdf
13) "Ariane 6 and Vega C begin development," ESA, 12 Aug. 2015, URL: http://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Transportation
14) "ESA, Airbus Safran Discuss Ariane 6," Aviation Week, 15 June 2015, URL: http://aviationweek.com/paris-air-show-2015/esa-airbus-safran-discuss-ariane-6
15) "Successful conclusion of ESA Council at Ministerial level," ESA, 2 Dec. 2014, URL: http://m.esa.int/About_Us/Jean-Jacques_Dordain/
16) Mathieu Chaize, Guillaume Collange, Stefan Haessler, Gilles Debas, "Ariane 6 Industrialization Concept and Status," Proceedings of the 68th IAC (International Astronautical Congress), Adelaide, Australia, 25-29 Sept. 2017, paper: IAC-17-D2.1.2
17) "ESA proves new technologies to power future launchers," ESA, 22 March, 2018, URL: http://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Transportation/
18) "Shared launch opportunities for light satellites," ESA, 23 March 2018, URL: http://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Transportation/
19) "Deploying multiple small satellites," ESA, 15 March 2018, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2018/03
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).