Airbus Defence and Space

Liberty second stage one step closer to production

• Airbus Defence and Space working closely with ATK to deliver the second stage of the Liberty commercial launch vehicle on schedule

• Successful tests on tank structures demonstrate that key Ariane 5 manufacturing technologies can be evolved for use on the Liberty second stage`

June 28, 2012 – Airbus Defence and Space, the number one company in Europe for space technologies and systems, has successfully completed a set of tests on tank structures proving that key design and manufacturing processes used for Ariane launchers are ready for production of the Liberty commercial launch vehicle second stage.

The tests covering load-carrying cryogenic tanks demonstrate that existing Airbus Defence and Space processes can be leveraged to confirm the overall Liberty schedule and enable a speedy entry into service – and into orbit. Airbus Defence and Space is also working on leaner production processes for the second stage to bring best value to the Liberty launch vehicle.

Liberty is a complete commercial crew transportation service, including the spacecraft, abort system, launch vehicle, and both ground and mission operations, designed from inception to meet NASA’s human-rating requirements with a planned first test flight in 2014 and Liberty crewed flight in 2015. Airbus Defence and Space, as a major subcontractor, will provide the second stage of the Liberty launch vehicle - based on the liquid-fuelled cryogenic core of the Ariane 5 vehicle powered by the Safran-built Vulcain 2 engine. The Ariane 5 launcher, for which Airbus Defence and Space is the Prime Contractor, was developed under the aegis of the European Space Agency and is operated by Arianespace. With 48 consecutive successful missions over nearly nine years, it is the world’s most reliable launcher. This includes the launch of three Autonomous Transfer Vehicles to resupply the International Space Station in the last four years. During this time, the Ariane 5 has launched more commercial satellites into orbit than any other launch vehicle in the world.

A film from the Airbus Defence and Space site in les Mureaux, near Paris (France), shows the work done to complete the stage testing.  It shows the machining, forming, computerized automatic welding and inspection of cryogenic tank elements to provide the increased thickness and stiffened profiles necessary for the Liberty second stage. An additional tank panel of increased thickness is welded and tested in a cryogenic environment at the EuroCryospace facilities (an Airbus Defence and Space and Air Liquide joint-venture). These successful tests demonstrate that Airbus Defence and Space’s manufacturing technology has the capability to process panels that are several times thicker than those of Ariane 5. These panels meet the needs for the strengthened cryogenic tanks of Liberty's second stage.

Alain Charmeau, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said: "These tests take the Liberty second stage one step closer to production. They demonstrate conclusively that our proven processes can manufacture thicker and stiffer cryogenic tanks for the Liberty second stage.

"Welding, machining, and forming space hardware is a highly sophisticated industrial process. Our extensive experience in manufacturing all Ariane launchers has given us comprehensive and unmatched capability that we can now utilize for a new commercial space transportation system – Liberty. We are proud to be a valued partner alongside ATK and Lockheed Martin and look forward to the success of Liberty," he continued.

“Airbus Defence and Space’s world-class commercial launch team provides unique vehicle and systems capabilities to Liberty,” said Kent Rominger, ATK program manager for Liberty. “These tests by our Airbus Defence and Space teammates demonstrate how our flight-proven Liberty team is hard at work and keeping Liberty on schedule for first launch in 2014.”

For additional information on the Liberty Transportation Service please visit the Liberty website at:


About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third in the world. In 2011, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover close to €5 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide, mainly in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands.

Airbus Defence and Space is the sole European company that covers the whole range of civil and defence space systems and services.

Its three business units are: Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure; Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment;  Airbus Defence and Space for comprehensive fixed and mobile end-to-end solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security and broadcast satellite communications equipment and systems, and bespoke geo-information services, worldwide.

Airbus Defence and Space is a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2011, the Group – comprising Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 49.1 billion and employed a workforce of over 133,000.


Press contacts:

Jeremy Close (Airbus Defence and Space)                                                            Tel.: +44 (0)1 438 77 3872

Astrid Emerit (Airbus Defence and Space)                                                             Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 36


Download film of the tests at: DEFENCE AND SPACE_LIBERTY

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