Chief of European Space Agency assured during his press conference that Ariane 6 project is still developing according schedule.
Luckily for ESA, work on Ariane 6 is in more advanced stage than mockup presented on picture above but planned date of the maiden flight, 2020, is getting closer. Johann-Dietrich Woerner, chief of ESA visited on April 6, 2016, integration facility at Les Mureaux in France, belonging to main contractor of Ariane 6 program – Airbus Safran Launchers. Johann Woerner accented that Ariane 6 is still closing to reality. He told to BBC reporter:
“Ariane 6 is today not just a dream, not just a plan,”
Surely it is plan, but for the moment this plan has few weak points. First is price per launch. Development of the Ariane 6 is progressing with one of the main objective – become competitive and comparable launch vehicle to one offered by SpaceX. American company is world leader in reducing costs per launch, mainly due well engineered propulsion and rocket construction which, along with reusable technology, made possible reducing launch cost significantly. ESA and ASL are targeting with Ariane 6 for both commercial (A64 variant) and government customers (A62 variant) at least across Europe. ASL and ESA to achieve this goal should reduce costs per launch for at least half of price ($/kg) for Ariane 5 not to mention about starting competition with Falcon-9 by SpaceX. Unfortunately still no prices were announced. ASL is keeping silence as far the launch costs, but this time press representatives were assured that before end of the April some prices will be unveiled. According to spacenews.com, Patrick Bonguet stated:
“Ariane 6 will have twice the mass and twice the volume of the Falcon 9, at less than twice the price,”
It would be quite revolutionary if it would be truth, but during Ariane 6 program there was number of declarations about attractive pricing of the rocket which were not necessary close to reality. It is sure that without reasonable priced medium to heavy rocket launch system, ESA will not be able to dream about any deep space exploration and may lose the place of one of the leaders in world space industry.
As far as the date of maiden flight, ASL confirmed that Ariane 6 program has minor delays (just like ASL tax problems which caused that Company employs only 300 people instead 8000) but still maiden flights in 2020 is still actual date. One of the most important news was details about future procedure of the integration and assembly of Ariane 6. It was changed from vertical to horizontal – according to head of Ariane 6 development at ASL, Patrick Bonguet, it is very important change. Reducing number of crane operations causes that whole process is faster, more cost-effective and less dangerous for personnel. It will help also to reduce costs and time needed for preparing each launch. Also integrating Ariane 6 with payload will be performed horizontally. Rocket after attaching payload and covering with fairing will be transported to launch pad and just before start it will be put into vertical position with crane. Of course this solution has many advantages like cost reducing, it takes less time to assemble rocket and integrated it with payload doing it horizontally but there is one disadvantage. It will be done by ESA and ASL for the first time. Since now every European rocket was assembled vertically, all personnel, engineers, workers and specialists were trained for vertical assembling. Probably it will take some time before they will manage to do all their tasks according to new procedures.