2016-06-07 16:05:12| 分类：
SINGAPORE – France’s space minister on June 1 urged a redoubled European effort in space research, and specifically in next-generation rockets, in the face of what he said were increased investments by the United States and other major space powers.
Visiting the French and European space agencies’ merged launcher directorate in Paris, Thierry Mandon, who is responsible for space policy in the French Ministry of Education and Research, rejected the idea that SpaceX of the United States already had too far an advance in its rocket-reusability program to be matched by Europe.
Asked if Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX’s recent multiple successes in landing its Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage constituted a decisive step forward in the race to the future, Mandon said:
“They have achieved multiple successes in recovery, which is only the beginning of the process. Now they’ve got the stages back – very good. The next challenge is: How do you use them again? I don’t know if we’re too late, or behind, but I do know we need to move forward and Promethee – Prometheus – is a good way to go about this.”
What sometimes passes for French arrogance in translation is often an attempt by French officials to dispel fears – often expressed in the press here — that they are falling behind and that the game, in effect, is over.
This pervasive angst – not limited to Germany — after every SpaceX acrobatic display remains despite the examples in rocket history when today’s losers – Europe in the 1970s compared to the United States debuting the space shuttle – end up as winners as the shuttle was withdrawn from the commercial market that Europe’s Ariane came to dominate.
Mandon was referring to a reusable, liquid-oxygen, liquid-methane engine that France has been working on, called Promethee. France would like to Europeanize the effort, offering to subcontract major elements to Germany and other European partners in exchange for financial contributions.
Mandon’s calling the propulsion system both Promethee, French for Prometheus, and Prometheus presages a French effort this December to persuade European Space Agency governments to fund the new propulsion system.
Jean-Marc Astorg, director of launchers at the French space agency, CNES, said during the Mandon briefing that 5-7 Prometheus engines could power the first stage of a future Ariane rocket, each costing 1 million euros ($1.13 million) apiece, compared to the 10-million-euro cost of the single Vulcain cryogenic engine that now powers the Ariane 5 first stage along with two solid-fueled strap-on boosters.
Vulcain is powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
The Ariane 6 rocket – designed to be one-half the cost of Ariane 5 – is on track to a 2020 launch. It will use a single Vulcain as well, with two or four solid-fueled boosters depending on mission requirements. Ariane 6’s second stage is powered by the Vinci engine, which is also fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
Astorg has said in the past that one of the things he most admires about the SpaceX Falcon 9 is its design simplicity and specifically its use of a single motor design for the first stage, which uses nine of them, and the second stage, which uses one. That feature alone helps SpaceX reduce costs.
Astorg said France is seeking support in Germany and other European governments for a three-year R&D effort, budgeted at 125 million euros, which would culminate in a prototype engine ready to test in 2019.
Given worries in Europe that Ariane 6 may already be yesterday’s story in the global market, Astorg stressed – as did Mandon and CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall during the briefing – that Prometheus is an R&D program in parallel to, and not in competition with, Ariane 6 and the companion Vega C enhanced small-satellite vehicle.
Astorg said additive manufacturing and other technology-design improvements could cut in half, to five years, rocket propulsion development work that a decade ago would have taken 10 years.
Astorg said CNES and other Prometheus program officials would need to spend considerable time studying how the way liquid methane works in a propulsion system.
David Quancard, director of operations at Airbus Safran Launchers, the prime contractor for Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 and the likely leader of a next-generation rocket effort, said 50 percent of the cost of a rocket propulsion system lies in its industrial procedures.
Reducing production cycles, which Airbus Safran Launchers is already doing with Ariane 6, would be key to future launchers’ design as well, he said.
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WASHINGTON — A French reusable rocket engine program is getting a boost from the European Space Agency, which is ready to sign a contract with Airbus Safran Launchers that would lead to an engine test three years from now.
A small team of engineers from Airbus Safran Launchers and the French space agency CNES have poured a few million euros since 2015 into a liquid oxygen and-methane-fueled reusable engine dubbed Prometheus. ESA leaders agreed during December’s ministerial conference in Lucerne, Switzerland, to make Prometheus part of the agency’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program, or FLPP.
In an interview with SpaceNews, Airbus Safran Launchers CEO Alain Charmeau said FLPP is allocating 85 million euros ($91 million) to Prometheus to fund research and development leading to a 2020 test firing. Now that Prometheus is an ESA program, Charmeau expects more countries will get involved.
“ESA will pay the contract to Airbus Safran Launchers and then Airbus Safran Launchers will cooperate with European industry, of course France and Germany, but we will have also contributions from Italy, Belgium, Sweden and probably a couple of others to a smaller extent,” Charmeau said.
Europe has been reticent to jump into reusability. Both of its next-generation launchers — Ariane 6 and Vega C — will be expendable. Airbus Safran Launchers, ESA’s prime contractor for the Ariane 6, has said the European market does not ensure enough launches to make reusability a profitable pursuit. Charmeau said the Prometheus work ESA has agreed to fund will evaluate the feasibility of developing a reusable engine with drastically lower cost.
Digital rendering of Europe’s proposed reusable rocket engine, Prometheus. Credit: Airbus Safran Launchers
“If we have this answer by 2020, then we can work on the evolution of launchers either for reusability or not depending on the size of the market,” he said.
The target price for a Prometheus engine is 1 million euros, one-tenth the cost of the Ariane 6’s liquid-oxygen and liquid-hydrogen Vulcain 2.1 engine. The Prometheus program is making extensive use of new technologies and production methods, including 3-D printing, and a large amount of technical design work already completed in France and Germany, according to an Airbus Safran Launchers presentation.
Charmeau said the market dynamics that have dissuaded the company from reusability in the past are still the same, but the company wants to lay the foundation for long-term launcher development.
“We are preparing the market for 2030. Today we do not have in Europe an engine which has the capability to be reused for the main stage of the launcher. Until we have this engine, it is very difficult to design what could be a new launcher,” he said.
During December’s ministerial, ESA members committed 206.8 million euros to FLPP. Startup PLD Space of Spain, another member of the FLPP program, received 750,000 euros from ESA in November to study liquid-propulsion stage recovery for a small satellite launcher.
Airbus Defence and Space’s reusable first-stage engine concept, the Advanced Expendable Launcher with Innovative engine Economy, or Adeline, is a separate project from Prometheus, Charmeau said, but could combined with the liquid-propulsion system. Adeline proposes returning an Ariane first-stage engine by flying it back with deployable wings and landing on a runway.
“Prometheus might fit very well with this kind of reusable launcher concept,” Charmeau said.
European demand for Ariane 6
Airbus Safran Launchers is also trying to get a guarantee of demand for Ariane 6 launches from European government institutions ahead of its first launch. The company estimates that European government demand for launches accounts for only 27 percent of Arianespace’s launch activity, with the rest coming from the commercial sector. The U.S. market is 65-percent government demand, going largely to domestic launch providers, and the Russian market is 76-percent government, according to Airbus Safran Launchers numbers.
“The target now is to try to federate the European Commission, ESA, Eumetsat and national agencies for similar applications so that we organize a production order to be awarded to Arianespace as quickly as possible in order to give European industry a minimum critical mass for production of Ariane 6, and the same for Vega C,” Charmeau explained.
He said Airbus Safran Launchers is seeking a commitment of five Ariane 6 launches per year, and believes a commitment of two Vega C launches a year for Italy’s Avio would constitute enough demand to provide stability. Charmeau said demand for launches of European satellites is rising and should make this an attainable target.
“We anticipate a slight increase in institutional requirements in line with the increasing space budget in Europe, both at the European Commission level and ESA level, which means that there will be more programs, more satellites and therefore more launch services,” he said.
Charmeau said Airbus Safran Launchers wants to see a European representative, such as the European Commission or ESA, aggregate institutional demand and direct that to Arianespace. Such an organizational method is not in place today, and it is unclear how that might form. Charmeau said Airbus Safran Launchers will also be negotiating whether a guaranteed number of launches per year would replace the subsidy Arianespace gets to provide Europe with assured access to space.
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