The European Space Agency (ESA) is asking its 13 member nations to stump up an extra €230 million ($268m) to aid the development of Arianespace’s next generation Ariane 6 rocket as well as its Vega-6 rocket. The bill could rise.
To date the Ariane 6 R&D programme has already cost a budgeted €2.83 billion and the current shortfall is described as a “cost overrun”. However, France is again in a Covid lockdown and that means risks as to more costs and slippages in production time.
Consequently, ESA has confirmed reports that had indicated that the maiden flight of an Ariane 6 rocket was now being pushed back to Q2/2022.
A briefing on October 29th which followed on from a two-day ESA Council meeting heard that the development of Ariane 6 had been slowed by the Covid-19 problems.
Ariane 6 was initially planned to make its debut flight in late 2020 although ESA had said earlier this year that there would be delays and said that the – then – new launch date would be 2H/2021. That date has now further slipped to Q2/2022.
ESA says it hopes to have the extra funding in place over the next few months.
One immediate consequence of the delays will be the cancellation of certain contracts for Ariane 6 to carry satellites into orbit. OneWeb, for example, was booked to carry some of its satellites on the maiden Ariane 6 flight. The launch of a Galileo global positioning satellite is also slated for an early launch.