Future Launchers Preparatory Programme

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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 as of 2012. The technologies under development may lead to both improved evolutions of the Ariane 5 and to the development of the next generation launcher, the Ariane 6.


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.[1]

ESA was founded around a couple of purposes, one of them was safeguarding the independent access to space for Europe.[2] The development of technologies used on the Ariane 5 started already in 1977, while the first launch occurred in 1999.[3]

The privatization of the American space industry also urges ESA to advance their rocket technologies, otherwise ESA may lose its 50% market share in the GTO launch market.[original research?]

Programme planning[edit]

As of 2015 the FLPP programme contained three periods.[4][needs update]

  • 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): System studies, concepts, and an identification of evolutions to reduce costs
    • Step 2 (2009-2013): Competition of studies, progress towards ground demonstrators (most notably Vinci 2), flight experiments
  • Period 3 (2013-2018): After Ariane 6 decision programme develops key technologies and further integration between Ariane 6 and Vega

Programme outline[edit]

The Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP) is a collection of development programmes, whose main focus is technology development and testing.

The FLPP programme was divided in three Subprogrammes as of 2012, namely:[citation needed]

  • Next Generation Launcher (NGL), a collection of launcher technology development programmes. It also contains an investigation of launcher concepts. For more info refer to the NGL chapter.
  • Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), 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 will be the first derivative of the FLPP programme.

The following chart offers an overview of the FLPP programme:
ESA Future Launchers Preparatory Programme Chart.svg

Next Generation Launcher (NGL)[edit]

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.[citation needed] The NGL programme consists of three investigation topics:

  • Launcher concepts
  • Propulsion technologies
  • Other technologies

Launcher concepts[edit]

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 [5] named six concepts. Four of these have been described in a NGL status report [6] that 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 it 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 or six 35 tons boosters can be added to boost the performance to 5 or 8 tons.[citation needed]


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-ton boosters the performance can be enhanced to 5 respectively 8 tons.[citation needed]


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 2750 kN 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.[citation needed]


No information is available about these two concepts as of June 2012. The letters indicate that these concepts will have 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 with 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.[citation needed]

The conclusion from the 2008 report was that the HHSC concept was most promising.[citation needed]

Propulsion technology[edit]

To advance ESA's propulsion technologies the following experiments / development programmes are executed.[7]


Main article: Vinci (rocket engine)

VINCI is a new restartable 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.[citation needed]


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.[citation needed]

Other technologies[edit]

ESA also advances technologies in the following five technology fields, that are necessary for launchers.[8]

  • CURS (Cryogenic Upper Stage Technologies)[6]
  • Materials
  • Avionics
  • Pyrotechnics
  • Breakthrough Technologies (Densified propallents, Cryogenic tanks and feed-lines)

Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV)[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Ariane 5 ME[edit]

ESA was 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).[9]

On 2 December 2014, ESA decided to stop funding the development of Ariane 5 ME and instead focus on Ariane 6 which should have a lower cost per launch and allow more flexibility in the payloads (using two or four P120C solid boosters depending on total payload mass).[10]

Ariane 6[edit]

Main article: Ariane 6

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.[citation needed]

Recent developments[edit]

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.

In 1st Quarter 2015 ESA reported that a precursor for Europeanised AVUM for Vega-C firing test campaign reached 53 successful firing tests. In September 2014 a Hybrid Propulsion Demonstrator campaign begun leading to two successful full thrust tests. Additional progress has also been made on several other demonstrators.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Next-generation launchers". ESA. 9 October 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  2. ^ "Launcher Strategy". ESA. 14 October 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  3. ^ "About Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP)". ESA. 26 January 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  4. ^ "FLPP preparing for Europe's next-generation launcher". ESA. 17 November 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  5. ^ "ESA Bulletin 150" (PDF). ESA. May 2012. p. 87. ISSN 0376-4265. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Kunz, Oliver; Renk, Thomas; Kauffmann, Jens. "FLPP: CRYOGENIC UPPER STAGE TECHNOLOGIES PROGRAMMATIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL OVERVIEW" (PDF). ResearchGate. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  7. ^ "Propulsion activities". ESA. 6 March 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  8. ^ "Technology". ESA. 30 October 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  9. ^ "ESA - Adapted Ariane 5 ME". ESA. 14 October 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  10. ^ Kyle, Ed (3 December 2014). "Ariane 6". Space Launch Report. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  11. ^ "ESA Bulletin 161 (1st quarter 2015)" (PDF). ESA. 2015. p. 79. ISSN 0376-4265. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 

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