Spaceflight Insider

Ariane 6 gets full funding from ESA

CGI graphic of the Ariane 6 four-booster configuration (A64).

A computer generated graphic of the Ariane 6 four-booster configuration (A64). Image Credit: ESA / David Ducros

Full funding for Europe’s new Ariane 6 launch vehicle has just been secured Nov. 9 by ESA as the agency signed 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 an August 2015 agreement.

ESA already paid ASL $752 million for the initial development of the rocket through the preliminary design review in mid-2016. The new amendment provides the $1.9 billion required to continue development as well as the operation of the booster, which is currently targeting 2020 for its 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,” said Alain Charmeau, CEO of Airbus Safran Launchers. “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.”

The deal inked Wednesday in Paris was the result of a unanimous decision to continue the Ariane 6 program made by ESA member states. 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 the 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 build Ariane 6 follows the December 2014 decision taken at an ESA Council meeting at ministerial level held in Luxemburg 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.



Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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