Wednesday, November 30, 2022
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the delicate and important issue of Europe’s spatial autonomy

Philippe Bapsiste, president of CNES, was the first to speak. He began with a quick update on the progress of work on Ariane 6. His ” shooting range which is almost finished “and the tests of the final phase will begin” in a few days “. After that, it is necessary to complete the combined tests (with several elements of the rocket and/or its launch pad). In short, there are still a few months of work “.

When Ariane 6 was announced (in 2014), the rocket was supposed to arrive in 2020. It has been delayed several times. Until the beginning of summer, the maiden flight of the next heavy launch vehicle was expected this year, before it was postponed to ” one day in 2023, Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency, recently stated. A delay that poses a problem as Europe can no longer rely on Soyuz rockets following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Now think about what’s next

Although Ariane 6 is not there yet, Philippe Bapsiste confirms that we will ” that we start today by thinking about how we should work for the future “. ” No one can say whether Ariane 6 is reusable in his next developments, but he also adds that ” the question of whether one needs a reusable launch vehicle is not trivial “.

In any case, the current works are important to have all cards in hand when the day comes. As a reminder, we find the same things in a 2019 Senate report that resulted today from the “Space” working group led by Sophie Primas.

For the reusable to be interesting, it is necessary to have a sufficient launch speed. SpaceX can count on institutional launches on behalf of NASA and its own Starlink satellites. Stephane Israël, president of Arianespace, adds that in Europe the pace will come from the space market and not only from institutional launches, which will not be sufficient.

“Be proud of what we have done”

Stephane Israël, explains that the alignment of the planets is favorable: ” The European team and the French team are very much in line in place.

If he does not specifically return to the delay of Ariane 6, he confirms that we can ” to be proud of what we have done […] It was Ariane that sent the most important mission of the decade with the James Webb Space Telescope. The icing on the cake, the precision of the launch is such that the lifetime of the satellite has been revised upwards. ” We are highly respected and even admired for our reliability “. In terms of reliability, Ariane 5 has nothing more to prove.

Stephane Israël took the opportunity to specify that a new Block 2 version ” 20% more powerful of Ariane 6 is already in the pipeline, certainly with the P120C+ engine. As a reminder, Amazon has signed a historic contract for 18 launches with Arianegroup, including 16 ” of an improved version of the Ariane 64 “.

Soyuz is a situational problem, not a structural one

Regarding the issue of Russia and Soyuz launchers, it is a situational problem, not a structural one. We will of course overcome the Soyuz crisis says the head of Arianespace. He adds that the end of the use of Soyuz by the European Space Agency had already been planned since… 2014. This is both the year of validation of Ariane 6, but also of Russia’s invasion of Crimea. The end of the Soyuz was planned for 2023.

Don’t depend on SpaceX

Finally, Stéphane Israël returns to Europe’s need for space autonomy and therefore to have its own launch vehicles. In the beginning, the Ariane program was intended to allow Europe ” not to be in the hands of a public actor, it is not now to be in the hands of a private actor “, with SpaceX in mind.

The roundtable ends with a concern over SpaceX’s Starlink constellation and its obsession with low orbit. The concern would be having to raise a finger to ask if we don’t want to disrupt Mr. Musk’s constellation when you want to launch a satellite.

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