The future European launcher Ariane 6 will debut in 2020. In order for it to bring all its payloads safely to their orbits, the engines for the new launcher must first be extensively tested. To test the upper stage of the new launcher, a new test rig will be built at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) site in Lampoldshausen. The Chair of the DLR Executive Board, Pascale Ehrenfreund, and the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), Johann-Dietrich Wörner, signed the contract for the development and construction of the P5.2 test rig for the Ariane launcher programme on 2 June at the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) in Berlin. All upper stages can be tested in this test rig – a capability unique in Europe.
"The Ariane 6 is the future of European space transportation – and DLR is an indispensable partner. Before the first flight of Ariane 6, the upper stage of the new launcher will be put through its paces in Lampoldshausen. With this, DLR assumes responsibility for the central task of making Ariane 6 as safe as its predecessors," said Ehrenfreund in Berlin. The upper stage of the Ariane 6 will be tested extensively on this new P5.2 test rig at the DLR site in Lampoldshausen. These include fuelling and defuelling tests and hot running tests for the upper stage. The commissioning is scheduled to begin in 2018.
Commitment to Germany as an aerospace location
The DLR Space Administration in Bonn lobbied for the new test bench to be built in Lampoldshausen. The German participation in the Ariane 6 programme will be controlled from this location. "Germany will have a 23 percent contribution in the new launcher, making it the second largest partner after France. We want to participate effectively and contribute our expertise profitably within the European arena. The construction of this test facility in Germany is a clear sign and confirmation of the great success of our commitment," explains Denis Regenbrecht, responsible for the Ariane 6 programme at the DLR Space Administration.
Extension of the test portfolio at the DLR Lampoldshausen site
The DLR Institute of Space Propulsion is technically responsible for the construction and subsequent operation of the test rig. At the Lampoldshausen site, DLR tests liquid rocket engines of different power classes on behalf of ESA and the European space industry. "The P5.2 is a major expansion of our test portfolio," explains Stefan Schlechtriem, Head of the DLR Institute of Space Propulsion. "In addition to engines and their components, we will be able to use it to test complete upper stages in future. This capability is unique in Europe."
Ariane 6 – Europe's future space transportation
The Ariane 6 development programme was approved at the ESA Council at Ministerial Level in December 2014 and signed by 12 member states. With its first launch set for 2020, this European launcher system currently in development is globally competitive and will guarantee European access to space for ESA Member States. The total launch costs will be reduced by almost 50 percent compared to the Ariane 5. The major contractor for developing the Ariane 6 is the Franco-German company Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL). Another significant German player in this development is the Augsburg-based company MT Aerospace.