Why is it needed?
Market forecasts for launch services made to the end of this decade indicate a segmentation of the mass of geostationary satellites. That will make it difficult to combine payloads on Ariane 5 ECA in the future.
The worldwide competition among launch service providers makes it essential to develop a post-Ariane 5 ECA system as early as possible to continue to guarantee Europe’s access to space while, at the same time, reduce costs to more competitive levels.
At the November 2012 ESA Council meeting at ministerial level in Naples, Italy, Ministers secured investments for detailed definition studies of the new Ariane 6 launcher and the continuation of the development of Ariane 5 ME Adapted, with the goal of developing as many commonalities as possible between the two vehicles.
Ariane 6 preparation will build on the work completed in the Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP), the activities within the Ariane 5 post-ECA programme (such as the Vinci engine), and the results of national and industrial initiatives.
Concepts handled within FLPP were gradually down-selected to a limited number of reference launch systems after top-level mission requirements in terms of performance and cost were considered, and the required technologies and readiness levels were identified.
Ariane 6 objectives and main missions
The overarching aim of Ariane 6 is to provide guaranteed access to space to Europe without requiring public sector support for exploitation.
Ariane 6 is a single-payload launch system that can 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 4 t for polar/SSO missions at 800 km altitude and 3–6.5 t, with two main segments (3–3.5 t and 6–6.5 t) in GTO equivalent.
The exploitation cost of the Ariane 6 launch system is its key driver. A first flight is targeted for 2021.
Ariane 6 elements
The Ariane 6 is a three-stages configuration (called PPH) powered by solid propulsion for the lower composite (first two stages) and with a cryogenic liquid oxygen and hydrogen for the upper stage.
For the lower composite, several options are being considered in terms of number, loading and arrangement of motors.
For the upper stage, Ariane 6, similarly to Ariane 5 ME Adapted, will use cryogenic propulsion for the upper stage based on the Vinci engine. It will be restartable and have direct deorbiting features.
Ariane 6 work logic
The preparatory work has begun, with a first phase of trade-offs between different PPH concepts that will lead to the selection of one Ariane 6 concept by the second quarter of 2013. Analysis will begin on the selected concept during the feasibility stage, planned for completion in mid-2013.
This will be followed by the preliminary definition phase which aims to show the overarching objective of the Ariane 6 launch system can be met: reduced exploitation costs.
The complete development of the Ariane 6 launch system will be proposed at the 2014 Council at ministerial level.
Last update: 9 July 2013