Launchers for space transport

The Ar­i­ane pro­gramme – Eu­rope's ac­cess to space

The new European Ariane 6 launcher
The new Eu­ro­pean Ar­i­ane 6 launch­er
Image 1/3, Credit: ESA - D. Ducros

The new European Ariane 6 launcher

The new Eu­ro­pean Ar­i­ane 6 launch­er is sched­uled to launch for the first time in 2022 and will guar­an­tee Eu­rope’s in­de­pen­dent ac­cess to space in the fu­ture. Just like its pre­de­ces­sors, Ar­i­ane 6 will be a ‘dy­nam­ic’ launch­er that is in­tend­ed to evolve con­tin­u­ous­ly.
65th launch of Ariane 5
65th launch of Ar­i­ane 5
Image 2/3, Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace

65th launch of Ariane 5

On 28 Septem­ber 2012, an Ar­i­ane 5 rock­et was suc­cess­ful­ly launched from the Eu­ro­pean Space­port in Kourou for the 65th time.
Versions of Ariane 5
Ver­sions of Ar­i­ane 5
Image 3/3, Credit: DLR

Versions of Ariane 5

Overview of the dif­fer­ent ver­sions of Ar­i­ane 5.

In order to provide Europe with independent access to space, a number of European states decided to commence the Ariane programme in 1973. It has since become one of the most successful European technology programmes and Germany has been an important partner from the very beginning. As part of both European and German space strategy, space transport continues to play a central role today. The overall goal is to provide a reliable, flexible and competitive European launcher system. The Ariane programme fulfils this purpose and provides a powerful launcher in the form of the Ariane 5. The programme is accompanied today by the Vega small launcher and Russian Soyuz rockets, which, like Ariane, launch from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana.

Ariane 5 – the world’s most reliable launcher

Ariane 5 has the best reliability record of all regularly deployed launchers. In operation since 1996, it is specially designed to transport payloads weighing up to 10 tonnes into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) in dual launches. In the market segment of launch services for telecommunications satellites, this European launch system now has a share of over 50 percent. Not only has Ariane 5 launched over 100 satellites and spacecraft, but it also carried the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) space freighters into orbit to rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS). In addition, it is now scheduled to launch one of the most prestigious space missions of all time, the James Webb Space Telescope that has been constructed by NASA, ESA and CSA. At the end of 2021, the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope will take off from French Guiana on board an Ariane 5.

The Ariane 6 programme – securing Europe's independent access to space

At the ESA Ministerial Council Meeting in December 2014, the member states decided to develop the new Ariane 6 launcher. This decision represents an important milestone. For the Ariane launcher system to remain successful in international competition over the long term, it must not only be further developed technically, but also be able to be operated cost effectively. A prerequisite for this was a restructuring of the European launcher sector. Responsibilities, costs and risks will be shared in future between ESA and the European space industry. In this way, launch costs will be reduced by approximately half compared to Ariane 5.

This cost reduction and the modernisation of the proven Ariane system are important advantages during the current rapid changes in the commercial launcher market, which new participants are increasingly entering. For Ariane 6, many components draw on the experience and technologies of Ariane 5. Designers are combining existing components that have proven reliable with new elements. This will make it possible to complete the development of a new rocket system within a few years. The first flight of the approximately 60-metre-high Ariane 6 launcher is planned for 2022.

The launcher configuration of the new Ariane 6 uses the propellant combination of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in both the lower and upper stages. The new lower stage is technologically based on the 'old' lower stage of Ariane 5 but is designed to be cost-optimised. The upper stage is a modification of the new upper stage already envisaged for Ariane 5ME, with the re-ignitable Vinci engine. Depending on the configuration, Ariane 6 can transport five or eleven tonnes of payload into GTO; it can be equipped with either two or four solid-propellant boosters. It is being constructed by the European space company ArianeGroup.

11 articles
  • Anja Kaboth
    Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Lam­pold­shausen
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 6298 28-201
    Fax: +49 6298 28-112
    Im Langen Grund
    74239 Hardthausen
  • Denis Regenbrecht
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Ger­man Space Agen­cy at DLR
    Königswinterer Straße 522-524
    53227 Bonn

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