Arianespace says it will launch its first test flight of its ‘next generation’ reusable Ariane 6 rocket in 2020. This launch will be of its ‘basic’ Ariane 62 version. Two more flights are scheduled to happen in 2021.
There would then be follow-on flights in mid-2021 of the Ariane 64 version, which would be fitted with 4 ‘strap-on’ rocket boosters which would increase the cargo weight carried.
Arianespace’s target ‘retail’ price for a standard commercial launch aboard Ariane 62 will be $85 million, which could be trimmed to $70 million for government and scientific launches, provided the European Space Agency and other governmental organisations ordered at least 5 launches per year. The price of the heavier workhorse Ariane 64 would be substantially more at $130 million.
Specialist trade news site, Space Intel Report, says the $130 million price/launch works out at some $65 million each for equal weight satellites, which is about the sum charged by arch-rival SpaceX for an individual ‘full price’ launch without using pre-flown elements.
The transition to the reusable Ariane 6 models would not be overnight. Arianespace says that it will still be flying today’s Ariane 5 versions until 2023.