Ariane 6

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Ariane 6
Ariane 6 PPH sketch.svg
Proposed PPH variant
Function Medium-heavy launch vehicle
Manufacturer Astrium or Airbus & Safran
Payload to
6.5 tonnes (6.4 long tons; 7.2 short tons)
Associated rockets
Family Ariane
Launch history
Status In Development
Launch sites Guiana Space Centre

Ariane 6 is a launch vehicle design being considered for funding by the European Space Agency. If developed, it will become the newest member in the Ariane launch vehicle family. The final design is to be selected by the ESA ministerial-level meeting in December 2014[1] between the CNES-ESA solid fuel design and Airbus-Safran liquid fuel with solid rocket boosters.[2] Project requirements include development of a launch vehicle capable of lifting 6.5 tonnes (14,000 lb) to the Geosynchronous transfer orbit for €70 million at a launch rate of 9 per year with maiden flight in 2021.[3]:12,15

Development History[edit]

ESA-CNES variant[edit]

Ariane 6 PPH cutaway drawing

In 2012, detailed definition studies were funded.[4][5] 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."[4]

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.[6]

As of May 2013, 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.[6]

If development is approved by 2014, the Ariane 6 could make its first flight by 2021–22.[7] Development is projected to cost 4 billion Euros, as of May 2013[8] However a 2014 study concluded that development cost could be reduced to about 3 billion Euros by limiting contractors to five countries.[9]

Market positioning[edit]

While the Ariane 5 typically launches one large and one medium satellite at a time, the ESA proposal for Ariane 6 is intended for single payloads of up to 6,500 kilograms (14,300 lb) to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), for a price of approximately US$95 million.[10] The SpaceX Falcon 9 and the Chinese Long March 3B both launch smaller payloads but at lower prices, approximately US$57 million and US$72 million respectively, with the Falcon 9 launch of a mid size satellite competitive with the cost of the lower slot of a dual payload Ariane 5. For lightweight all-electric satellites, Arianespace intends to use the increased performance and restartable Vinci engine of the Ariane 5 ME and Ariane 6 to deliver the satellites closer to their operational orbit than the Falcon 9, significantly reducing the time required (several months for an all-electric satellite from a standard GTO) to transfer to geostationary orbit.[10]

Airbus and Safran counter proposal[edit]

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.[11][12]

This proposed launch system would come in two variants:[1]

These Ariane 6 configurations would be compatible with the existing ESA launch vehicle fleet: the heavier Ariane 5 ME and lighter Vega, while also providing higher modularity than the alternative design initially proposed by ESA.


French newspaper La Tribune questions if Airbus Space Systems can match promised prices when costs for the subcontractors are on a raise, and whether Airbus and Safran Group can be trusted when they were found the be responsible for a failure of Ariane 5 flight 517 in 2002 and more recently 2013 failure of the M51 ballistic missile.[2] The companies were also criticized for being unwilling to take the risks of development and asking for higher initial funding than originally planned to start development - €2.6 billion instead of €2.3 billion. Proposed launch prices of €85 million for Ariane 6.1 and €69 million for Ariane 6.2 were also deemed too high by the La Tribune in comparison to SpaceX[13] During the meeting of EU ministers in Geneva on 7 June 2014 these prices were deemed too high and no agreement with manufacturers was reached.[14]


  1. ^ a b "Safran-Airbus Group launcher activities agreement". Safran Group. 2014-06-25. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  2. ^ a b Michel Cabirol (7 July 2014). "Faut-il donner toutes les clés d'Ariane 6 à Airbus et Safran?" (in French). La Tribune. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Ariane 6 Project Request For Consultation for Ariane 6 Key Launcher Elements - ATTACHMENT II : Technical Conditions" (PDF). European Space Agency. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Stephen Clark (21 November 2012). "European ministers decide to stick with Ariane 5, for now". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 22 November 2012. 
  5. ^ Jonathan Amos (23 November 2012). "Ariane rocket ready to do battle". BBC. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  6. ^ a b 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." 
  7. ^ "Europe okays design for next-generation rocket". PhysOrg. 9 July 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  8. ^ 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." 
  9. ^ Peter B. De Selding (18 March 2014). "Questions Swirl around Future of Europe's Ariane Launcher Program". SpaceNews. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  10. ^ a b 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." 
  11. ^ 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." 
  12. ^ Ariane 6: Customers call the shots (BBC, July 5, 2014)
  13. ^ Michel Cabirol (7 July 2014). "Privatisation d’Ariane 6 : comment Airbus et Safran négocient le "casse du siècle"" (in French). La Tribune. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  14. ^ Cyrille Vanlerberghe (8 July 2014). "Le choix d'Ariane 6 divise industriels et agences spatiales" (in French). Le Figaro. Retrieved 5 August 2014.