European Space Agency Approves Upgraded Ariane 5ME Launcher

By on Monday, December 5th, 2011

Astrium, the European space industry leader, has received confirmation from the European Space Agency (ESA) following its Preliminary Design Review (PDR) that the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution launcher project has been approved.

More than 100 European specialists in different fields have validated Astrium’s preliminary design definition, development plan and specifications for the various sub-systems of the launcher that should allow the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution programme to continue full steam ahead with its development stage, once the financing is decided by ESA’s member states during the next Council at the Ministerial meeting, planned for November 2012.

The primary upgrade for the Ariane 5 launcher is a new upper stage equipped with a Vinci restartable cryogenic engine, developed by Snecma (Safran group). The nose fairing will also be extended three meters to accommodate larger and heavier payloads.

Ariane 5 ME will be capable of placing up to 12 metric tons of payload in geostationary orbit, boosting the launcher’s capacity by 20% compared with the current Ariane 5 ECA. The ME version will also have an expanded range that covers all types of satellite orbits, meaning a larger commercial offer for Ariane while meeting the needs of institutional customers.

Alain Charmeau, CEO of Astrium Space Transportation, welcomed this major step forward for the European launcher, which is slated to enter service in 2017: “The Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (ME) launcher will be capable of simultaneously placing two satellites of over five tons each in orbit, anticipating the needs of both commercial markets and EU institutions. Customers will be able to benefit from a ‘two-in-one’ launcher for the same price as the current Ariane ECA version, representing a price reduction of 20% per launched kilogram.”

The added value generated by Astrium’s unique role as end-to-end prime contractor for Ariane 5 since 2003 will allow the company to drive down costs.

The acceptance of the PDR, which began on 31 August 2011, is a major step in the launcher validation process, and in particular for the new upper stage. It is also the culmination of thousands of hours of work by Astrium engineers in Les Mureaux and Bremen and by Astrium’s industrial partners.

The industrial organization, based to a large extent on a network of “Ariane industrial partners” has made the launcher a huge success. In its role as prime contractor, Astrium will continue to coordinate the work of more than 30 companies around Europe.

Astrium is the number one company in Europe and the third in the world for space technologies. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services.

In 2010, Astrium had a turnover of EUR 5 billion and more than 15,000 employees worldwide, mainly in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Astrium Space Transportation for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Astrium Satellites for spacecraft and ground segment, and Astrium Services for comprehensive end-to-end solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security satellite communications equipment, bespoke geo-information and navigation services worldwide.

EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2010, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of EUR 45.8 billion and employed a workforce of nearly 122,000.

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