Ariane 5 is the embodiment of Europe’s unrestricted, independent access to space. Airbus Defence and Space is the industrial key to this success, with industrial experience dating back to the very first European launch vehicles, Diamant and early Ariane launchers. This background ensures quality and reliability – a prerequisite for successful commercial launch activities and satisfied customers.
The new-generation Ariane 5 continues the tradition of its famous predecessor, Ariane 4, but features a radically new design. Since 2005, the latest heavy-lift version of Ariane 5 has provided increased Geostationary Transfer Orbit payload capacity, up to 10 tonnes on dual launches, to meet the evolving demands of both commercial and governmental markets. It incorporates a new cryogenic upper stage carrying over 14 tonnes of propellants, and a strengthened cryogenic main stage, powered by the new Vulcain 2 engine.
Airbus Defence and Space is single prime contractor for the Ariane 5 system, responsible for delivery to Arianespace in French Guiana of a fully integrated and tested launch vehicle and co-ordinates the entirety of the associated technical and contractual relationships with subcontractors throughout Europe. Airbus Defence and Space is also lead manufacturer, responsible for the production of all Ariane 5 stages, the vehicle equipment bay and flight software, along with a number of subassemblies. Airbus Defence and Space teams are on hand in French Guiana to help Arianespace during launch campaigns.
Airbus Defence and Space has formed innovative partnerships with the Russian space industry to complement the Ariane 5 standard and heavy-lift options, enabling Europe to offer a complete family of launchers.
The company is the main shareholder in Starsem, the Franco–Russian joint company that manages Soyuz marketing worldwide. The Soyuz launcher is designed to boost small- to medium-weight satellites into low and medium Earth orbits, and is also ideal for interplanetary missions. The Soyuz family of vehicles have so far performed more than 1,700 successful launches. Soyuz launches currently take place from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Republic of Kazakhstan, central Asia. As of 2009, Soyuz rockets will also be launched from the Guiana Space Centre, Europe’s spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, and operated by Arianespace.
Eurockot Launch Services is a joint venture of Airbus Defence and Space and Khrunichev, holding 51% and 49% respectively. Using the Rockot small launch vehicle (maximum payload capacity, two tonnes) from dedicated satellite preparation, launch and customer facilities at Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia, Eurockot provides commercial launch services to operators of low Earth orbit scientific, remote-sensing and communications satellites. Eurockot has performed several missions for commercial and institutional customers in Europe, North America and Asia.
Europe is already thinking about what the future of launchers will be from 2015 onwards.
Extension of Ariane 5’s operational capability of has been prepared since 2006 in order to offer Arianespace a launcher fully adapted to the market and its evolution. A decision is expected to start development of a new Ariane 5 version including a new-generation cryogenic upper stage which will be more powerful and capable of multiple re-ignitions. The aim is a first flight at the end of 2014.
This new-generation upper stage will be an essential building block for any future launcher that will either succeed Ariane 5 or have to respond to the exploration mission needs which will be one of the most important space conquests of this century. Through ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP2) agreed in 2005, launcher concepts for the 2020–2025 horizon are currently under investigation and the required enabling technologies (propulsion, materials, structures, and technologies for a cryogenic re-ignitable upper stage) are being studied. Demonstrators, such as the intermediate experimental atmospheric re-entry vehicle (IXV), which brought together the former national initiatives, are already included in this programme.
Airbus Defence and Space is ready and able to continue its leadership in the programmes of tomorrow through ESA’s programmes and its own investments.