Future Launchers Preparatory Programme
The Future Launcher Preparatory Programme (FLPP) is a European Space Agency (ESA) programme that aims to mature technology for a "Next Generation Launcher" as a successor to the Ariane 5 rocket. The programme began in February 2004, and the NGL is foreseen to become operational around the year 2025. A secondary aim of the FLPP is to enhance the reliability and competitiveness of ESA launchers, including those operational today.
The FLPP is expected to harmonise European launcher technology development activities and steer the restructuring of the European launcher industrial sector, optimizing the use of available resources, and leading to more cost-effective launchers.
ESA was founded around a couple of purposes, one of them was safeguarding the independent access to space for Europe. The development of technologies used on the Ariane 5 started already in 1977, while the first launch occurred in 1999. This proves it takes a long time to mature technologies. Because of this it is necessary to develop technologies for the launchers that will succeed the current family of Ariane 5, Soyuz-2 (rocket) and Vega (rocket).[original research?]
 Programme planning
The FLPP programme contains 3 periods.
- Period 1 (2004-2006): During this period they determined which technologies were needed for future rockets and they investigated how launch cost could be dropped. - Period 2 - Step 1 (2006-2009): Different launcher configurations were defined, the development programmes were defined and the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) design was completed, during this period.
- Period 2 - Step 2 (2009-2013): This period the different launcher configurations concepts are completed, the IXV is build, tested and flown. And some progress will be made with the technology development and maturalisation programmes.
- Period 3 (2013-2015): During this last period the technology development programmes are finalized and an recommendation will be made for a Next Generation Launcher (NGL)in the form of a preliminary design.
 Programme outline
The Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP) is actually a collection of development programmes. The main focus of all these programmes is technology development and testing.
The FLPP programme can be divided in three Subprogrammes, namely:
- Next Generation Launcher (NGL), this is again a collection of launcher technology development programmes. It also contains an investigation of launcher concepts. For more info read further at the NGL chapter.
- Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), this is the re-entry technology development programme.
- Ariane 5 ME (Mid-life Evolution), also known as Ariane 5 ECB. This is the technology application part of the FLPP and it will be the first derivative of the FLPP programme.
The following abbreviations are used:
|FLPP||Future Launchers Preparatory Programme|
|IXV||Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle|
|NGL||Next Generation Launcher|
|SCORE-D||Staged Combustion Rocket Engine - Demonstrator|
|POD-X||Pressure Oscillation Demonstrator - eXperimental|
|CUST||Cryogenic Upper Stage Technologies|
 Next Generation Launcher (NGL)
The purpose of Next Generation Launcher (NGL) is to develop concepts and technologies for the next generation launcher. This rocket (family) will succeed the Ariane 5, and at the start of the programme it was supposed to get operational between 2015 and 2025. The NGL programme consists of three investigation topics:
- Launcher concepts
- Propulsion technologies
- Other technologies
 Launcher concepts
At the start of the programme two design strategies were envisioned: The first was direct application of available technologies and launcher elements. It was called Building Block concepts, they could be operational by 2015. The second was named NGL and assumed that new technologies would be developed. Because of that these new technologies they would become operational between 2020 and 2025. The blue pages of the 150th ESA bulletin  named six concepts. Four of these have been described in a NGL status report  was released in 2008. The following six concepts have been evaluated.
The concepts are described by some letters
P = Solid rocket stage
H= Liquid rocket stage
GG=Gas Generator engine cycle
SC= Stage Combustion engine cycle
B=??? most likely another rocket engine cycle.
This is a Building Block concept that is composed of three rocket stages. All are derived from current Ariane 5 and Vega components with minor modifications. The first stage is derived from the Ariane 5 solid rocket booster. It will use the Filament Wound technology developed for the three solid stages of the Vega rocket. And it will contain 250 tons instead of 240 Tons of propellant. The second stage is derived from the P80 Vega first stage, but if will contain 110 instead of 88 tons of propellant. The Third stage is actually the Ariane 5 ME (Mid-life Evolution also known as A5 ECB) upper stage. This configuration can deliver 3 tons to GTO, two ore six 35 tons boosters can be added to boost the performance to 5 or 8 tons.
This is a NGL concept composed of two rocket stages. The first stage is a 150 Ton LOX/LH2 liquid rocket stage that is propelled by a 2500 kN Stage Combustion engine. The upper stage also uses LOX/LH2, it will contain 26 ton of propellant and it will use the Vince expander cycle upper stage engine. The two stage configuration can deliver 3 tons to GTO. With two or six 20 tons boosters the performance can be enhanced to 5 respectively 8 tons.
Like the HHSC configuration this will be a two liquid stage rocket that uses LOX/LH2. The difference is that the first stage will be propelled by a Gas Generator rocket engine with 2750kN of thrust. For the same performances the first stage will need 170 tons and the upper stage will need 30 tons of propellant. The version with no boosters will deliver 2,5 tons to GTO, but the two or six 20 ton boosters will enhance the performance to 5 respectively 8 tons.
 HBHSC & HBHGG
No information is available about these two concepts as of June 2012. The letters indicate that these concepts it will compose two liquid rocket stages. The first will use the Stage Combustion (SC) engine and the other the Gas Generator (GG) engine.
This system doesn’t use the normal letter indication. This concept is also composed of two liquid rocket stages. The first stage will use 340 tons of LOX/CH4 it will use two 2650 kN rocket engines. The upper stage will use the Vince engine to burn 30 tons of LOx/LH2. The normal configuration will deliver 5 tons to GTO. With two 40 tons boosters the performance can be enhanced to 8 ton to GTO.
The conclusion from the 2008 report was that the HHSC concept was most promising. But the two new configurations (HBHSC and HBHGG)
 Propulsion technology
To advance ESA’s propulsion technologies the following experiments / development programmes are executed.
VINCI is a new restart able Expander cycle upper stage engine. The development of this engine is nearly completed. Both the A5ME and most of the NGL configurations, will use this engine for their upper stage.
Stage Combustion Rocket Engine Demonstrator (SCORE-D), Formerly HTE High Trust Engine. The aim of this programme is to develop new more powerful first stage engine. Two engine cycles are evaluated; Gas Generator (GG) and Stage Combustion (SC) cycle. This engine will provide ESA the capability to lift off a medium sized launcher with a single engine and without the help of boosters.
The Pressure Oscillation Demonstrator – eXperimental (POD-X) experiment tries to advance ESAs knowledge about truss vector oscillation in solid rocket engines. This will help decreasing the vibration loads exerted by future ESA solid rocket stages.
 Hybrid demo
Hybrid propulsion Demonstrator. This programme will develop and mature hybrid propulsion technologies.
 Storable demo
The Storable propellants demonstrator experiment, is aimed to provide ESA with a restart able storable propellant engine. It must have a Thrust between 3 to 8 kN. And it will be a Pressure-fed engine . Possible applications will be for small upper stage, and possibly a lander.
 Other technologies
ESA also advances technologies in the following five technology fields, that are necessary for launchers.
- CURS (Cryogenic Upper Stage Technologies)
- Breakthrough Technologies (Densified propallents, Cryogenic tanks and feed-lines)
 Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV)
The IXV programme will provide state of the art re-entry technology for Europe. During this project a reentry vehicle will be designed, built, tested and flown. The technology that is developed during this programme can be applied to develop reusable launch vehicles. For more information about this programme visit the IXV wiki.
 Ariane 5 ME
ESA is currently evaluating if they will upgrade the Ariane 5. The main modification will be a new upper stage that uses the Vinci rocket engine. This will be the first implementation of technology developed during the FLPP, because Vinci was developed within the scope of this programme. This new upper stage will be restartable four times and will burn cryogenic propellants (LOX and LH2).
 Recent developments
In 2011 during the Space Access Conference the German aerospace company MT Aerospace presented an alternative future launcher vehicle family concept.
In November 2012 ESA will hold its next Ministerial Conference. During this event the ESA member states will determine which programmes they will support the coming 3 to 4 years. One of the main topics will be which launcher development programmes will be executed. So the next steps in the FLPP will be outlined then.
 See also
- European Space Agency (ESA)
- Modular rocket
- Common Booster Core (CBC)
- Common Core Booster (CCB)
- List of space launch system designs
- ESA Launcher Strategy
- ESA technology FLPP, Accessed 2 June 2012.
- ESA FLPP, Accessed 2 June 2012.
- 150th ESA bulletin Page 87, Accessed 21 June 2012.
- NGL status report 2008, Accessed 21 June 2012.
- ESA FLPP Propulsion, Accessed 29 September 2012.
- ESA FLPP Technologies, Accessed 29 September 2012.
- Technical document about CURS, Accessed 29 September 2012.
Forum about this subject, the most resent information can be found here.