The future European launcher, Ariane 6, is scheduled to lift off for the first time in 2020. To ensure that all its payloads can be safely transported into orbit, the engines for the new launcher must first undergo extensive testing. An important step in the upper-stage testing of the new launcher was taken on 26 February 2019. At the DLR site in Lampoldshausen, the new P5.2 test rig was officially inaugurated by Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Executive Board, Daniel Neuenschwander, Director of Space Transportation at the European Space Agency (ESA), and Pierre Godart, CEO of ArianeGroup GmbH, in the presence of numerous space policymakers and representatives from industry and academia. In future, the P5.2 test stand will be used to test cryogenic upper stages under sea-level conditions. What is special about this test rig is that not only engines and their components can be tested – as is the case with the site’s other test stands – but also the entire cryogenic upper stage of Ariane 6, the ‘Upper Liquid Propulsion Module’ (ULPM).
“The new test stand is one of the largest projects in the history of the DLR site in Lampoldshausen and unique in Europe. It is our answer to the new demands of global space transport – quickly adaptable, flexible to use and cost-efficient. This test stand therefore reflects the strategic and economic significance of European space transport and is makes a significant contribution to maintaining reliable, competitive and independent access to space,” says Ehrenfreund.
“The DLR Institute of Space Propulsion is an important member of the space cluster in Baden-Württemberg, which comprises over 80 companies, universities and research establishments. This cluster includes major names such as ArianeGroup at the Lampoldshausen site, Airbus DS and Tesat, as well as many SMEs, and currently employs more than 4000 people,” says Ministerial Director Michael Kleiner, Department Head at the State Ministry of Economics, Labour and Housing (Ministerium für Wirtschaft, Arbeit und Wohnungsbau) for Baden-Württemberg, who was represented at the ceremony by Claus Mayer.
DLR unlocks the potential of flexible test stands
This highly complex and extremely capable facility was designed and built as part of the development of the Ariane 6 launcher, directly commissioned by ESA. The test stand is financed by German ESA contributions to the Ariane 6 development programme. The DLR Space Administration is responsible for managing and coordinating these funds on behalf of the German government. “In times of disruptive change in the global space industry, where the competitive environment is becoming ever more complex due to new players, and the pace of innovation in advanced technologies is rapidly increasing, a modern and effective development and test site for liquid-fuelled, chemical space propulsion systems is crucial for the future viability of German and European spaceflight,” says Walther Pelzer, Member of the DLR Executive Board and Head of the Space Administration, adding: “The flexible use of test stands will therefore become the pivotal point for more efficient development and qualification processes in space systems.“
Complete stage tests for shorter development times
The foundation stone for the P5.2 test stand was laid in autumn 2014, together with the project partners. Commissioning by the DLR Institute of Space Propulsion is scheduled for late 2019. A total of around 50 million euro have been invested. “This uniquely designed equipment allows DLR engineers to conduct both refuelling and defuelling, as well as complete stage tests, in which the upper-stage engine is operated,” explains Hansjörg Dittus, DLR Executive Board member for Space Research and Technology. At no other European space site is there such a close linking of research, development, design and planning, as well as engine testing on large test stands for space propulsion systems, as at the DLR site in Lampoldshausen: “This shortens development times and significantly increases the maturity of liquid-fuelled, chemical space propulsion systems. In order to ensure the continuity for the site after Ariane 6, the test stands will be upgraded to methane combustion,” adds Dittus. The scheduled major investment of 30 million euro supports the European plans to develop the new Prometheus methane-fuelled engine.
The testing of all European liquid-fuelled chemical space propulsion systems is one of the central future activities at DLR Lampoldshausen. The engines for the new European Ariane 6 launcher will complete many thousands of test seconds on the test stands in Baden-Württemberg prior to their lift-off into space. “The future of the European launcher family and the future of the DLR site are closely linked. We are building on 60 years of experience and our aim is clear – for our test stands to enable us, as a European research and testing centre, to implement all the necessary test campaigns for Ariane’s liquid-fuelled chemical propulsion systems, from development, through qualification, to acceptance tests,” says Stefan Schlechtriem, Director of the DLR Institute of Space Propulsion.
From small test stands for trialling components and technology demonstrators, to large-scale facilities, such as those required for main and upper-stage launcher engines, everything is centrally available in one place at the DLR site in Lampoldshausen.
7th Industrial Days
The official inauguration of the new test rig also marked the beginning of the annual ‘Industrial Days’. With the slogan ‘Testing and test infrastructure to secure Europe’s flexible and affordable access to space’, almost 140 experts exchanged views on the progress of space transport on 26 and 27 February 2019. “The discussions showed that it is not only new engine component manufacturing techniques, but also test structures as a whole that are crucial to success in spaceflight. For reliable, independent and affordable access to space, we cannot rely on the structures of the past. In Lampoldshausen, we already have all the necessary facilities for developing and operating both Ariane 6 and all future space propulsion systems,” concludes Stefan Schlechtriem, who was invited to the Industrial Days in Lampoldshausen for the seventh consecutive time.