Franco-German tech firm Ariane Group which is building Ariane 6 rocket for European Space Agency in partnership with MT Aerospace of Augsburg Germany has received contracts on 14 May to create a prototype for upper stage of a rocket that could be carbon composite upgrade for its Ariane 6. The member states of European Space Agency decided during May 2018 to reallocate the sum of 70 million euros for creation of upper stage technologies that would be lightweight and keep P120C strap on booster production in Italy instead of creating another Germany based production line.
These funds that were provided by Germany are being channeled towards creation of two PHOEBUS (Prototype of Highly Optimized Black Upper Stage) contracts along with other programs. According to Gerome Breteau, head of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program a majority of the PHOEBUS program is already funded and a small amount will be decided by end of ESA’s ministerial conference scheduled to be held in Spain during November. The members comprising of 22 in all will decided about actual funding levels of current programs in progress and future programs the agency is considering.
According to ESA the shift in plan was done to reduce investments costs as upper stage rocket built with carbon-composite materials will be cheaper when compared to previous plan about making it with aluminum. The new materials also will increase the capacity that the rocket can now carry into geosynchronous orbit as it will now be able to carry around two metric tons. According to OHB spokesperson Hoerbst, the parent company of MT Aerospace the firm received funds of 8.6 million euros from European Space Agency for the PHOEBUS program. The firm will now concentrate on development of cryogenic structures and carbon composite tanks. Both partners stated that PHOEBUS prototype technologies will be part of integrated demonstration in 2021 for test of compatibility with hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen.