The space race continues. The European company ArianeGroup will develop a reusable mini-launcher, in particular to compete with the American company SpaceX, a pioneer in this technology, announced the French Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, on Monday 6 December.
This launcher “Must be able to be operational in 2026”, said Mr. Le Maire during a visit to the ArianeGroup site in Vernon (Eure), where the engines of the large Ariane rockets are in particular tested.
L’Europe a “Missed the turn of the reusable launcher”, conceded Mr. Le Maire. “We did not believe it, we fell behind compared to our American partners who developed SpaceX and Falcon 9, and this delay must be made up for”, he added, presenting France’s new space strategy. This strategy also aims to develop “Micro-launchers” reusable and to integrate more young shoots into this ecosystem.
Return of the “turbopumps” activity
The Vernon site, whose employees were worried about the consequences of ArianeGroup’s announcements in September concerning the elimination of 600 jobs in France and Germany, is intended to see its workforce increase, promised the minister, who was surveying the Eure. his electoral lands. “Today, there are just over 800 jobs at the Vernon site; by 2025, there will be nearly 1,000 ”, assured Mr. Le Maire.
Admittedly, the site will lose production of the Vinci engine, one of those equipping Ariane-6, but activity will be provided by the future heavy engine Prometheus and the return of activity « turbopompes », underlined Mr. Le Maire, in addition to that of the future reusable mini-launcher, which will nevertheless be in competition with other European projects, in particular German ones.
Vernon will also be the place where hydrogen production from renewable electricity sources will develop, the minister said. A joint venture between Safran and Airbus, ArianeGroup is currently preparing its future Ariane-6 heavy launchers, whose inaugural qualification firing is scheduled for the second half of next year.