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ESA’s Prometheus is the precursor of ultra-low-cost rocket propulsion that is flexible enough to fit a fleet of new launch vehicles for any mission and will be potentially reusable.
At the Space 19+ Council meeting in Seville, Spain last November, ESA received full funding to bring the current Prometheus engine design to a technical maturity suitable for industry. Prometheus is seen as key in the effort to prepare competitive future European access to space.
By applying a design-to-cost approach to manufacturing Prometheus, ESA aims to lower the cost of production by a factor of ten of the current main stage Ariane 5 Vulcain 2 engine.
Features such as variable thrust, multiple ignitions, suitability for main and upper stage application, and minimised ground operations before and after flight also make Prometheus a highly flexible engine.
Being of lower maturity in Europe, Prometheus precursor runs on liquid oxygen–methane which brings high efficiency, allows standardisation and operational simplicity. Methane propellant is also widely available and easy to handle. Prometheus technologies application is also foreseen in the short term to operational engines.