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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, on 12 August 2015.
The contracts, signed at ESA’s Paris Head Office with Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), France’s CNES space agency and ELV, 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.
ESA is overseeing procurement and the architecture of the overall launch systems, while industry is developing the rockets, with ASL as prime contractor and design authority for Ariane 6, and ELV for Vega-C.
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.
The contract amounts are: €2400 million for Ariane 6 (ASL), €600 million for the launch base (CNES) and €395 million for Vega-C (ELV).