Monday 2 March, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall and Jean-Marc Astorg, Director of Launch Vehicles, took part in the eighth Industrial Days organized by the German space agency DLR in Lampoldshausen. This gathering bringing together space institutions and manufacturers to share visions and projects is focused this year on Test and Launch Infrastructures.
Addressing the gathering, CNES’s President underlined that in the domain of launchers, Europe’s efforts are fully focused on assuring the success of Ariane 6 and Vega-C. These two launchers are set to build on and sustain the success of Ariane 5 and Vega and enable Europe to maintain its prime place in the world launch services market. Ariane 6 is pursuing ambitious cost objectives to gain an edge in the commercial market, while Vega-C will afford a boost in performance to offer an optimum solution for science and Earth-observation missions.
In 2015, CNES proposed to develop the Prometheus engine when it became apparent that reusability was going to become a reality. It became a European project in 2016 and development work got underway. The first tests on the stand will be conducted during the course of this year. This will mark a momentous event, representing the first tests in Europe of a reusable engine burning liquid oxygen and methane. To advance along the road to reusability, an experimental flight test approach also must be established before being able to recover a launcher stage intact and fly it again. This is the goal of the two demonstrators that CNES is studying: Callisto, a small vehicle just one metre in diameter and 13 metres tall, developed jointly with DLR and JAXA, and Themis, a vehicle powered by one and subsequently three Prometheus engines that will be tested in Vernon in 2021, Kiruna in 2022 and Kourou in 2025.
The Guiana Space Centre (CSG) is also one of the primary assets of Europe’s space programme. It has not received any large-scale investments since the early 2000s. The CSG New Generation programme, which got the go-ahead at the ESA Ministerial Conference in Seville, will bring down the base’s operating costs while increasing its flexibility to accommodate Ariane 6, Vega-C and demonstrators like Callisto and Themis.