PARIS, 21 Oct. 2013. Astrium won three new European Space Agency (ESA) contracts: two for continued development of the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (A5ME) launcher and the sub-assemblies common to Ariane 5 and Ariane 6, and one to start development studies for the Ariane 6 launcher.
The development of Ariane 5 ME involves two key objectives: improving the launcher by increasing its payload performance by two tonnes in geostationary transfer orbit by 2018 and preparing the Ariane 6 launcher.
Astrium will press ahead with definition and feasibility studies on the future Ariane 6 European launcher. The studies are intended to define the chosen concept and architecture of the Ariane 6 launcher and to specify its main characteristics prior to the start of its industrial development, in 2014.
Both the Ariane 6 and Ariane 5 ME launchers will feature the same liquid-propulsion system—the Vinci engine—in their upper stages and largely the same fairing.
“These three contracts will give Astrium’s teams, along with their European industrial partners, the opportunity to build on the substantial amount of work that has already been done on the Ariane 5 ME development, and on the feasibility study for Ariane 6, the design of which has now been finalised,” says Astrium Space Transportation CEO Alain Charmeau. “In defining the synergies needed to meet the European Space Agency’s schedule requirements and reduced production costs, Astrium is demonstrating its expertise as prime contractor of Ariane launchers.”
ESA’s member states decided to continue with the Ariane 5 ME program in Nov. 2012. At the Ministerial Council meeting held in Naples, ESA decided to safeguard investment in definition studies on the new Ariane 6 launcher and to carry on developing Ariane 5 ME and researching synergies between the two future launchers. The award of these latest contracts will enable member states to make a decision on the development and construction of the new Ariane 6 European launcher when they meet at the next ESA Ministerial Council in late 2014.