For my launcher my team has chosen to use a design originally developed by the European Space Agency ESA and the European space industry as also done in many other cases. Our mini-Ariane 6 is based on the new ESA launcher Ariane 6. There are a few reasons why the Ariane 6 was chosen. Only the Ariane 6 has a powerful upper stage engine called „Vinci“ which can be ignited multiple times. Multiple ignitions of the upper stage engine are necessary to reach complicated trajectories to the Moon or Mars. An additional advantage of the Ariane 6 is that it can use two or four boosters. For going with my spacship on a suborbital flight or to reach low Earth orbit we need only two boosters mounted on the Ariane 6. For flying to the Moon the power of two more boosters is necessary.
Let me start the introduction of the Ariane 6 with showing you the boosters:
The four boosters are mounted around the central main stage. The main stage has a diameter of 9 cm and is 64 cm tall. The main stage has only one engine as do the boosters despite being much bigger than a booster. This engine is called „Vulcain II“ for the real Ariane 6. The engine is burning very cold liquid hydrogen with cold liquid oxygen. Both liquid oxygen and hydrogen are stored in the big propellant tanks of the main stage. It was not possible to use such an engine burning liquid fuels for the mini Ariane 6 as these engines are very hard to downscale to the level needed. Therefore we use a solid rocket motor for the main stage very similar to the ones in the boosters. By the way, the main stage motor and the four motors of the boosters are all ignited simultaneously for launch. Woohoo!
The upper stage is mounted on top of the main stage. The engine of the upper stage is ignited after the burnout and separation of the main stage. The separation is necessary to avoid hauling the entire main stage into orbit. The upper stage then pushes the payload into an orbit around Earth and beyond. For my mission the direction of the push by the upper stage is towards the Moon.
Finally, the payload is mounted on top of the upper stage. In most cases this payload consists of one or two satellites. These satellites are protected by a payload fairing during initial phases of the launch. For my missions my spaceship is the payload. The crew module is built very robust as it has to withstand the harshness of re-entry into the atmosphere of Earth and the landing itself. Therefore it does not need to be protected by a fairing during liftoff.
The service module is not built as robust as the crew module. Therefore it needs to be protected during the launch. This protection is given by a fairing consisting of three pieces. These pieces are separated from the module after the Ariane 6 has left the dense layers of the atmosphere of the Earth.
Now you know my launcher – the mini Ariane 6! If you have any questions or comments please let me know. I would be very happy to answer!
PS: More information about the Ariane 6 from ESA you can find here.