​ESA awards Ariane 6 contract to Airbus Safran Launchers

The European Space Agency has awarded Airbus Safran Launchers a €2.4bn contract for the development and industrialisation of the Ariane 6 launcher.


Both variants of Ariane 6: with two (left) and four (right) solid rocket boosters.
Both variants of Ariane 6: with two (left) and four (right) solid rocket boosters.

Two versions of the launcher are planned. The Ariane 62 will have two P120 solid boosters and will primarily conduct government and scientific missions. Meanwhile, Ariane 64 will have four boosters, and is intended to deliver bigger payloads, undertaking commercial dual-satellite launches.

The contract will see €680m delivered up front for initial development, building towards a preliminary design review in mid-2016. The first flight is scheduled for 2020 and full operational capability is expected in 2023, by which stage Ariane 6 should be delivering up to 12 launches a year.

The total amount for the development of the launcher is predicted to be in the region of €3bn, including boosters to be shared by Ariane and Vega, another European launcher.

Cutaway shot of the Ariane 6
Cutaway shot of the Ariane 6

“The contract – signed within a matter of months of the historic decision taken by representatives of the ESA member states during the Ministerial Conference on 2 December 2014 in Luxembourg to build a latest generation European launcher – will see industry taking on the leading role in its design and marketing,” said Alain Charmeau, CEO of Airbus Safran Launchers.

“Both our and our European industrial partners’ commitment is a sign of our determination to provide our customers, whether they be institutional or commercial, with a launcher that is as reliable as ever while being increasingly competitive and adapted to the rapidly evolving space market.”

Airbus Safran Launchers is a 50/50 joint venture between Airbus Group and Safran that was announced in June 2014. The stated aim of the partnership is to guarantee Europe independent access to space and provide competition in the commercial market.