Future launchers: getting ready for tomorrow!

Europe is already thinking about what the future of launchers will be from 2015 onwards. A5 ME is the indispensable mid-term response to evolving needs.

Extension of Ariane 5’s operational capability of has been under preparation since 2006 in order to offer Arianespace a launcher fully adapted to the market and its evolution. A decision was taken at the 2008 Ministerial Conference to start development of a new Ariane 5 version, A5 ME (Midlife Evolution), including a new-generation cryogenic upper stage which will be more powerful and capable of multiple burns, in order to fulfil a broader range of missions. The aim is a first flight by 2016.

A5 ME is the indispensable mid-term response to evolving needs. For long-term assured access to space, Europe needs to maintain autonomous capabilities to serve the medium-class market (around four-tonne payloads to sun-synchronous orbit) by 2025 in addition to A5 ME, which will continue to serve the institutional and commercial need for heavy-lift capability. Moreover, Ariane 5 ME will enable Europe to position itself for a key role in the international exploration missions, crewed and automatic, that all the technological powers of the world are planning or developing.

Through ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP) agreed in 2005, launcher concepts for the 2020–2025 timeframe are currently under investigation and the required enabling technologies (propulsion, materials, structures, and for a cryogenic re-ignitable upper stage) are being studied.

Technologies and manufacturing processes for the future-generation launcher will focus on meeting environmental compliance requirements, expected to be enforced in the coming years, throughout the whole production chain. Minimisation of the exploitation cost as well modularity will also be major criteria for deciding on the system configuration and the technologies that underpin it.

Airbus Defence and Space is looking forward to serving Europe’s goal of continuing autonomous access to space through its industrial leadership within ESA programmes and its own ambitious investments.

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