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Science & Exploration

N° 27–1994: ESA signs ARD contract with AEROSPATIALE

19 September 1994

Europe chooses the "simple, fast and economical" option. Europe has two years to develop and prepare for launch by Ariane-5 a space vehicle demonstrator that can be considered as the first step towards a future crew transport vehicle.
The demonstration vehicle, called the ARD or Atmospheric Re-entry Demonstrator, is the tangible result of the reorientation of ESA's manned space programme towards affordable concepts paving the way for Europe's contribution to the International Space Station programme.

ESA has decided to appoint A.rospatiale (France) as prime contractor for the ARD development contract. The unmanned ARD capsule, measuring 2.8 m in diameter and weighing about 3000 kg, will be launched in April 1996 by Ariane 502

This venture will be a first for Europe in many respects:

  • . It will be the first time time a launcher operating in dual launch configuration, in this case Ariane-5, injects a satellite into geostationary transfer orbit and a re-entry vehicle into low orbit.


  • . It will also be the first time a space vehicle of this size is developed to such a tight schedule (20 months) and under such severe budget constraints (firm fixed price contract).


  • . The aims of the ARD are to validate Europe's ability to cope with the aerothermodynamic problems of atmospheric re-entry, demonstrate its mastery of the materials and measurement techniques involved, and provide operational experience in navigation, guidance and control along a re-entry and recovery trajectory. The contract will thus combine the ongoing technology development effort with the work on the concept for the development of the future Crew Transport Vehicle (CTV), currently being carried out in parallel by two separate groups of European firms, one headed by A.rospatiale and the other by DASA (Germany).


  • . The management approach is an unusual one, involving: - a very sharp reduction in the number of models and tests


  • - maximum use of existing equipment and software.


  • . Finally, A.rospatiale, applying streamlined management methods, will head up a team of 22 contractors from 9 different countries.

Jean-Marie Luton, ESA's Director-General, and Louis Gallois, Chief Executive of A.rospatiale, will sign the contract on Friday, 30 September 1994, at ESA Headquarters in Paris.

The signing ceremony will feature a briefing on the ARD programme by J.rg Feustel-B.echl, Director of ESA's Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity Programmes, and Bernard Humbert, Head of the Manned Spaceflight Programme Group at A.rospatiale Espace & D.fence.

Members of the press wishing to attend are asked to fill in the enclosed form and return it to ESA's Public Relations Department, if possible by fax ((33.1)
The briefing will take place at 10 a.m., after which drinks will be served..