The third highlight during our fantastic visit of ArianeGroup Les Mureaux on November 21 after visiting the main assembly hall of the main stage of the ESA launcher Ariane 5 and the SYLDA double launch structure was to have a look into the future. The new ESA launcher Ariane 6 was introduced to us by engineers and managers actually working on the Ariane 6 launcher project. As you can imagine this was a fabulous event for me because I am known as the biggest (but small in size) fan of the Ariane 6 launcher.
In the future the main stage of the Ariane 6 launcher will be assembled here in Les Mureaux as well. For this purpose a new assembly complex is been build in Les Mureaux just next to the assembly hall for the Ariane 5 main stage. We were allowed to take a look at the construction site of the Ariane 6 assembly hall. As you can see this hall is not as high as the one for the Ariane 5 main stage. That has a good reason: The main stage of the Ariane 6 will be assembled horizontally in comparison to the vertical assembly of the Ariane 5 main stage. Horizontal assembly has several advantages:
- All works are performed at the same level. This enables better cooperation between all engineers and technicians involved.
- Experiences from serial production of Airbus aircrafts can be used for the assembly of the Ariane 6 main stage.
- As the Ariane 6 main stage assembly hall has a relatively low ceiling climatization is way easier and comes to lower costs in comparision to the Ariane 5 main stage assembly hall.
Next was to learn more about Ariane 6 during a presentation about Ariane 6 and the current status of the development of this launcher. The two different versions of Ariane 6 – the A62 version with two Solid Rocket Motors (SRM) for medium sized payloads – and the big A64 version with four SRMs for heavy payloads – were introduced to us in quite some detail. The two versions of Ariane 6 will enable to launch a wider range of payloads in comparison to Ariane 5.
In the following you can have a look at some of the slides of the presentation given to us:
These are the slides showing the current status of the development of Ariane 6. Ariane 6 has started to become real:
The launch preparations for the new Ariane 6 launcher at the European spaceport in Kourou were explained to us as well:
Finally we had the pleasure to view a demonstration of the 3D program used for designing Ariane 6. During this part of the event details of the functions of the different Ariane 6 elements were explained to us. Here are some impressions from this presentation:
The final part of our visit of ArianeGroup in Les Mureaux was a great Q&A session with four experts and engineers. We were allowed to ask any question related to Ariane 6. Obviously I had several questions by myself. Additionally I had collected interesting questions from some friends on Twitter and Facebook. All our questions were answered. Many thanks go to the experts: Michaela, Mathieu Chaize, Simon Debeugny and Guillaume Collange.
After this great Q&A session our fantastic visit of ArianeGoup in Les Mureaux was coming to an end. Many thanks to all involved! It was a great day in Les Mureaux. It was a great honour to be invited to this event. It was mindblowing to be allowed to take pictures and videos of almost all the very interesting things at the site. Many thanks ArianeGroup! Merci beaucoup!
And we hope to be allowed to return to Les Mureaux next year when the production and assembly of the first Ariane 6 main stages has begun. We would love to report about these historic events to come!
P.S.: Some interesting info from the Q&A session with the ArianeGroup staff I would like to add:
- The payload for the inaugural launch of Ariane 6 in the summer of 2020 is not fixed yet. ArianeGroup is talking to several interested potential customers. A decision will be made before the next design review in June 2018. The second launch at the end of 2020 or early 2021 will carry Galileo navigation satellites.
- The thermal insulation of the Ariane 6 main stage will be sprayed foam. The colour of the foam is expected to be white. This is quite different from the segmented insulation blankets that are glued to the Ariane 5 core stage.
Part II: The double launch unit SYLDA