The European Space Agency (ESA) is putting a lot of effort into developing its version of low-cost reusable rockets with its Prometheus and Phoebus demonstration projects.
The space agency announced this week that it has signed two contracts with its joint venture ArianeGroup worth $183 million that will benefit Europe’s latest Ariane 6 launcher as well as a new generation of European launch vehicles.
ESA also signed contracts worth $165 million for Prometheus and $17.8 million for Phoebus.
Phoebus is the lighter upper stage of the Ariane 6 launcher, while Prometheus is a low-cost, full-sized, liquid-fueled rocket engine demonstrator intended to pave the way for reusable rocket engines. It has the potential to increase the launcher’s payload ability to geostationary orbit by over two metric tonnes while also lowering production costs.
Mr. Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation stated that “to secure Europe’s autonomous access to space at affordable costs, ESA is engaging resolutely in the development of new technologies required for future space transportation solutions. The Prometheus reusable engine and the Phoebus upper stage are excellent examples of this.”
In a tweet on the last day, the ESA listed the “two flagship projects.” Six Prometheus engine demonstrators will be designed for testing, according to the space agency. In the beginning, two existing engine demonstrators will be tested in a German facility, with the results being used to develop them.
André-Hubert Roussel, Chief Executive Officer ArianeGroup remarked that “the knowledge we have acquired will enable us to develop lighter, much less expensive engines, making European launchers ever more competitive and environmentally friendly.”