May 28, 2021

Prometheus: Contract signed for the expansion of test capacities with LOX methane

The ESA test bench P5 at DLR Lampoldshausen
The ESA test stand P5 is currently being expanded for tests with the LOX methane engine Prometheus.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a further contract as part of the Prometheus project. The DLR Institute of Space Propulsion at the Lampoldshausen site, together with ESA and the engine manufacturer ArianeGroup, responsible for the development of the Prometheus engine, is thus setting an important milestone for future propulsion technologies.

Expansion of test capability

The Institute of Space Propulsion operates large test benches for testing liquid chemical rocket propulsion systems on behalf of ESA, including the P5 test bench built in 1990. It was originally built for the development and qualification campaigns for the Vulcain main stage engine of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, which is powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. ESA is providing 3.11 million euros for its share of the investment to modify the test stand for the new fuel combination of liquid oxygen and methane (LOX/methane). In future, it will be possible to test large engines such as Prometheus with a thrust of 100 tonnes. Planning permission was granted by the Stuttgart Regional Council at the end of 2020 and work on the project started on schedule. The next step will be to use a methane tank with a capacity of 208 m3, which will be integrated into the test bench in addition to the hydrogen tank. This will make it possible to switch quickly between testing drives with the fuel combination LOX/methane and liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen. The institute is thus expanding its testing capabilities and retaining the flexible utilisation of the test facilities.

The porpulsion of tomorrow – Prometheus

In the Prometheus project, ArianeGroup is developing a reusable propulsion solution based on LOX/methane technology, which is being tested in detail on a large-scale ESA test bench at the DLR site in Lampoldshausen. The aim of the project is to significantly reduce the production costs of an engine in the long term. To achieve this, innovative approaches such as the 3D printing process, digital engine control with the use of artificial intelligence and the new fuel combination are being utilised. The Prometheus project is being funded with a total of 130 million euros: ESA is contributing around 100 million euros and DLR is contributing 30 million euros to the future of independent access to space.


Anja Kaboth

Corporate Communications Lampoldshausen
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Im Langen Grund, 74239 Hardthausen
Tel: +49 6298 28-201

Michael Wohlhüter

Project Leader
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Space Propulsion
Test Facilities
Im Langen Grund, 74239 Hardthausen