Ariane 6 locks down two firm launch contracts

First launch expected in 2020 or 2021

By: Theo Nichols

September 26, 2017

Digital rendition of the Ariane 6

The European Space Agency (ESA) is the inaugural launch customer of the Ariane 6 with two confirmed launches booked for the Galileo navigation satellite program. The launches are expected in 2020 or 2021.

“We are very pleased to have earned this expression of trust from the European Commission. By choosing to continue the deployment of the Galileo constellation with two Ariane 62 launches, they become the first confirmed customer for our next-generation heavy launcher, which is slated to make its initial flight in the summer of 2020,” Stephane Israel, Arianespace’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

The Ariane 6, Arianespace’s next generation launcher, features an updated first stage Vulcan engine and a new second stage Vinci engine. The Ariane 6 will have two configurations: the Ariane 62 (two strap on boosters) and the Ariane 64 (four strap-on boosters), which can carry 20% more payload to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) than the Ariane 5.

Airbus is currently working on a partially reusable first stage system called Adeline in an effort to make the Ariane 6 cost competitive with other medium and heavy lift launchers. While the European Commission has an agreement with Arianespace guaranteeing at least five launches per year on the Ariane 6, Arianespace still must compete with the likes of SpaceX for commercial orders to reach their goal of 12 Ariane 6 launches a year.

airbus ariane 6 arianespace esa safran

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