Ariane 6 mock up
|Function||Medium-heavy launch vehicle|
ESA and Arianespace
|Country of origin||Europe|
|Launch sites||Guiana Space Centre|
Ariane 6 is a launch vehicle being developed by the European Space Agency to be the newest member in the Ariane launch vehicle family. ESA has finalised the preliminary design of the next generation rocket; a smaller more flexible rocket, featuring the same payload fairing diameter as the Ariane 5 ME and capable of launching a single satellite of 3 to 6.5 tonnes to a geostationary transfer orbit. The vehicle is a three stage design in which the first stage uses three identical solid rocket motors in a side-by-side configuration, the second stage will use a single identical solid rocket motor mounted above the first stage, the third stage will be a restartable liquid cryogenic Vinci engine to allow for complex and high energy orbits. The four motors of the first and second stage will each carry 135 tonnes of solid propellant and have an empty mass of 10 tonnes.
In 2012, detailed definition studies were funded. ESA will in 2014 decide on full funding, which could lead to a launch around 2021. The chairman the German Aerospace Center commented that while building Ariane 6 in one location would be much more efficient, but "then it is no longer a European launcher. It is a French or German launcher. Therefore, the discussion about industrial distribution is one of the core questions for the next launcher in Europe. It is hard stuff."
A new launch pad location in French Guiana has been selected, and completion of the Ariane 6 design in July 2013 is expected to kick off design of the launch pad. CNES is aiming to launch the Ariane 6 a minimum of eight times each year, with a goal of supporting twelve annual launches.
As of May 2013[update], the target "production and operations cost "for the launch system [was] 70 million Euros per launch, a 30% reduction in the cost of launching an equivalent 6.5 tonne payload on the Ariane 5, although this is not necessarily the launch price at which Ariane launches will be offered to launch customers.
If development is approved by 2014, the Ariane 6 could make its first flight by 2021–22. Development is projected to cost 4 billion Euros, as of May 2013[update] However a 2014 study concluded that development cost could be reduced to about 3 billion Euros by limiting contractors to five countries.
Ariane 6 configuration will be finalized by the ESA ministerial-level meeting in December 2014.
As of March 2014[update], Ariane 6 is targeted for smaller payloads than the more capable Ariane 5, up to 6,500 kilograms (14,300 lb) to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), for a price of approximately US$95 million. The SpaceX Falcon 9 and the Chinese Long March 3B both launch smaller GTO payloads but at commensurately lower prices as well, approximately US$57 million and US$72 million, respectively.
Airbus and Safran counter proposal
In June 2014 Airbus and Safran surprised the ESA by announcing a counter proposal for the Ariane 6. They also announced a 50/50 joint venture to develop the rocket. This joint venture would also involve buying out the French government's (CNES's) interest in Arianespace. 
This proposed launch system would come in two distinct variants:
- Ariane 6.1 Two P145 solid rocket boosters, Vulcain 2 liquid engine main stage, Vinci liquid engine third stage shared with Ariane 5 ME - with payload to GTO up to 8.5 tons and a support for electrically powered satellites.
- Ariane 6.2 Two P145 solid rocket boosters, Vulcain 2 liquid engine main stage, Aestus liquid engine third stage shared with Ariane 5ES - with lower payload capacity than variant 6.1.
Following configuration would be compatible with existing ESA launch vehicle fleet, notably heavier Ariane 5 ME and lighter Vega, also providing higher modularity than the alternative design initially proposed by ESA.
- Stephen Clark (21 November 2012). "European ministers decide to stick with Ariane 5, for now". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Jonathan Amos (23 November 2012). "Ariane rocket ready to do battle". BBC. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
- de Selding, Peter B. (2013-05-24). "With Ariane 6 Launch Site Selected, CNES Aims To Freeze Design of the New Rocket in July". Space News. Retrieved 2013-05-25. "12 flights annually to keep production and operations costs within the targeted 70 million euros ($95 million) per launch [and] is viewed as an all-in cost that would include about 14 million euros per launch in ground operations and also would include the sales and marketing charges incurred by Arianespace."
- "Europe okays design for next-generation rocket". PhysOrg. 9 July 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- de Selding, Peter B. (2013-05-24). "With Ariane 6 Launch Site Selected, CNES Aims To Freeze Design of the New Rocket in July". Space News. Retrieved 2013-05-25. "Ariane 6 would fly in 2020 assuming a development go-ahead in 2014. CNES’s Ariane 6 team is operating under the “triple-seven” mantra, meaning seven years’ development, 7 metric tons of satellite payload to geostationary transfer orbit and 70 million euros in launch costs. CNES estimates that Ariane 6 would cost 4 billion euros to develop, including ESA’s customary program management fees and a 20 percent margin that ESA embeds in most of its programs."
- Peter B. De Selding (18 March 2014). "Questions Swirl around Future of Europe's Ariane Launcher Program". SpaceNews. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
- "Safran-Airbus Group launcher activities agreement". Safran Group. 2014-06-25. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
- Svitak, Amy (2014-03-10). "SpaceX Says Falcon 9 To Compete For EELV This Year". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2014-03-11. "As SpaceX and other launch contenders enter the sector—including new rockets in India, China and Russia—Europe is also investing in a midlife upgrade of the Ariane 5, the Ariane 5 ME, which aims to boost performance 20% with no corresponding increase in cost. At the same time, Europe is considering funding a smaller, less capable but more affordable successor to the heavy-lift launcher, the Ariane 6, which would send up to 6,500 kg (14,330 lb.) to GTO for around $95 million per launch."
- de Selding, Peter (2014-06-20). "Airbus and Safran Propose New Ariane 6 Design, Reorganization of Europe’s Rocket Industry". Space News. Retrieved 2014-06-11. "European space-hardware builders Airbus and Safran have proposed that the French and European space agencies scrap much of their previous 18 months’ work on a next-generation Ariane 6 rocket in favor of a design that includes much more liquid propulsion."
- Ariane 6: Customers call the shots (BBC, July 5, 2014)
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