Arianespace’s current workhorse rocket, its Ariane 5 model, will be replaced by the much more flexible Ariane 6 versions with a test flight scheduled for 2020 and speedy commercialisation during 2021-2022.
But it is now clear that the European Space Agency (ESA) is planning for important follow-on rocket developments to these Ariane 62 and 64 versions. Indeed, Stephane Israel, CEO at Arianespace, and speaking back at the ConnectAsia event in Singapore at the end of June, confirmed that his task was to take the new plans to the next stage.
New engines are under development (project Prometheus) which will slash the end costs of the current Vulcain 2 engines. Second set of developments include the reusability of key components on Ariane 6, and to more closely match the cost savings being achieved by SpaceX. The third task is to replace some of the metal currently in use with carbon fibre elements.
The overall aim is to have these new elements integrated into the Ariane 6 versions by 2025.
But there’s more. ESA, Ariane and the French CNES space agency are looking at project Callisto, a smaller rocket and with similar design elements as the Falcon 9 rockets from SpaceX, and the ability to re-land after launch.
Various EU approvals are needed for some of these developments, and an ESA ministerial meeting is scheduled for late 2019 where proposals will be examined.