Astrium, the world's second ranking space company, has been awarded three new contracts by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Running through to the end of 2014, the first two contracts cover the continued development of the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (A5ME) launcher and the sub-assemblies common to both it and Ariane 6. This study was approved by ESA in May 2013.
The third contract is for the start of development studies for the Ariane 6 launcher, based on the concept selected in July.
"These three contracts will give Astrium's teams, along with their European industrial partners, the opportunity to build on the substantial amount of work that has already been done on the Ariane 5 ME development, and on the feasibility study for Ariane 6, the design of which has now been finalised," said Astrium Space Transportation CEO Alain Charmeau. "In defining the synergies needed to meet the European Space Agency's schedule requirements and reduced production costs, Astrium is demonstrating its expertise as prime contractor of Ariane launchers."
Astrium will now press ahead with definition and feasibility studies on the future Ariane 6 European launcher. These studies aim to define the chosen concept and architecture of the Ariane 6 launcher and to specify its main characteristics prior to the start of its industrial development, in 2014.
Meanwhile, the development of Ariane 5 ME involves two key objectives: improving the launcher by increasing its payload performance by two tonnes in geostationary transfer orbit by 2018 and preparing the Ariane 6 launcher.
The Ariane 6 and Ariane 5 ME launchers will both feature the same liquid-propulsion system in their upper stages, specifically the Vinci® engine, and largely the same fairing.
ESA's member states made the decision to continue with the Ariane 5 ME programme in November 2012. At the Ministerial Council meeting held in Naples, ESA decided to safeguard investment in definition studies on the new Ariane 6 launcher and to carry on developing Ariane 5 ME and researching synergies between the two future launchers. The award of these latest contracts will allow member states to make a decision on the development and construction of the new Ariane 6 European launcher when they meet at the next ESA Ministerial Council in late 2014.
Source: Astrium awarded three new contracts by ESA for Ariane 6 and Ariane 5 ME launchers
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