Dec 18, 2017 | By David

We reported previously on the exciting collaboration between the European Space Agency and Airbus Safran Launchers, now known as Ariane Group. The company signed an agreement with Europe’s main space exploration organization back in June 2017, under the terms of which they agreed to produce a special component for the launch phase of its rocket. The Prometheus demonstrator is a reusable engine demonstrator for the ESA's Ariane series rockets, that will be developed in part using 3D printing technology and is designed to run on liquid oxygen and methane. Today Ariane Group announced that the next part of this agreement between the ESA and Ariane Group has just been reached.

Prometheus casing prototype. Copyright: ESA

The Paris Air Show, back in July of this year, was the site of the inception of this partnership, which represents a significant evolution for the 3D printing industry as well as rocket and aerospace technology. Prometheus is a demonstrator for a very low-cost engine, which is the precursor for all European rocket launcher engines as of 2030. The main goal is to build an engine that will be at least ten times cheaper than current engines, such as the Vulcain 2, which dates back to 2005 and costs around 10 million Euros.

(the Vulcain 2)

Prometheus powering future launchers. Copyright ArianeGroup Holding

The new approach involves new design and manufacturing workflows as well as different rocket technology. The development process for the demonstrator engine will see a switch from the traditional Ariane propellant, which is a combination of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, to a new combination of liquid oxygen and methane. The Prometheus LOx-methane engine project will also make use of an unprecedented level of digitilization for engine control and diagnostics. It will also see the introduction of 3D printing, in a connected factory environment, for its prototyping and final production process.

The first phase of the project was completed earlier this month, and an initial program review confirmed that the design choices were fully consistent with the engine specifications and that the cost projections were on target. This led to a new 75 million Euro deal, which was signed today by Daniel Neuenschwander, Director of Space Transportation at the European Space Agency (ESA), and Alain Charmeau, CEO of Ariane Group.

Ariane Group is a 50/50 joint venture that was set up by the Airbus and Safran groups to pool their resources and research in the field of propulsion technology for defense and aerospace applications. The group employs over 3,000 people in France and Germany, and renamed itself in July due to its acquiring the principal contracts for the ESA’s Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launcher families.

The French space agency (CNES) is currently leading the early stages of the design process, and the initial testing of the Prometheus engine demonstrator is scheduled to take place as of 2020. It will make use of the P5 test bed at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), which is located in the village of Lampoldshausen, Germany.

According to Charmeau, "The development of Ariane 6 is ontrack, with a first flight scheduled for 2020. This new Prometheus contract with the European Space Agency is paving the way for the future of European launchers, with the goal of designing and building a reusable engine for one tenth the cost of today's Vulcain 2 type engines.’’



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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