Full funding for Europe’s new Ariane 6 launch vehicle has just been secured by ESA as the agency signed on Wednesday, Nov. 9, an amendment to its earlier agreement with Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), the rocket’s manufacturer. The new deal unlocks $1.9 billion, the remainder of $2.6 billion for the development of Ariane 6, stipulated in the August 2015 agreement.
ESA has already paid ASL $752 million for the initial development of the rocket until the preliminary design review in mid-2016. The new amendment provides $1.9 billion required to continue development, as well as the operation operation of the booster, targeting 2020 for the first flight.
“Thanks to the trust and support of ESA and its Member States' representatives, the industry has met its commitments and proved its ability to fulfill its role as a design and industrial authority. We have met the deadlines and quality objectives set, and now, thanks to the industrial organization rolled out in record time, we can continue to develop a flexible, modular and competitive launcher that will fly in 2020", said Alain Charmeau, CEO of Airbus Safran Launchers.
The deal inked on Wednesday in Paris, France, is the result of an unanimous decision to continue the Ariane 6 program made by ESA member states unanimously. The countries were keeping an eye on the initial phase of the development of the rocket, examining the work done by ASL and its partners.
Ariane 6 will be 207 feet (63 meters) tall and 18 feet (5.4 meters) in diameter. ASL will build two versions of this rocket. The “62” configuration will weigh around 500 metric tons at liftoff and is intended mainly for government and scientific missions. It will be capable of launching up to five metric tons into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). Ariane 64 will have a liftoff weight of around 800 metric tons and is intended for commercial dual-satellite launches of up to 10.5 metric tons into GTO.
As the first flight of Ariane 6 is currently scheduled for 2020, the rocket will be used in parallel with Ariane 5 until 2023 when the older version will be retired after more than 25 years of service.
The contract to built Ariane 6 follows 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.
"Our commitment and that of our European industrial partners shows our determination to provide our institutional and commercial customers with an equally reliable and more competitive launcher adapted to the rapidly changing space market," Charmeau noted.