The European company ArianeGroup will develop a reusable mini-launcher, in particular to compete with the Americans of SpaceX, pioneers of this technology, announced Monday, December 6 the French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire.
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This launcher “must be able to be operational in 2026”, affirmed the Minister during a trip to the Norman site of ArianeGroup in Vernon, in the Eure, where the engines of the large Ariane rockets are notably tested.
Europe has “missed the turn of the reusable launcher, we did not believe it, we fell behind our American partners who developed SpaceX and Falcon 9, and this delay must be made up for”, conceded Bruno Le Maire, presenting France’s new space strategy.
This strategy also includes the ambition to develop “Micro-launchers”, which are also reusable, and to further integrate young shoots into this ecosystem.
Removal of positions
The Vernon site, whose employees were worried about the fallout from ArianeGroup’s announcements in September concerning the elimination of 600 jobs in France and Germany, is destined to see its workforce increase, promised the minister who was surveying his Eure electoral lands. “Today there are just over 800 jobs at the Vernon site, by 2025 there will be nearly 1,000”, assured Bruno Le Maire.
→ ANALYSIS. Aerospace: turbulence in sight at Ariane
Admittedly, the site will lose the Vinci engine, one of those powering Ariane 6, but activity will be brought by the future Prometheus heavy engine and the return of activity “turbopumps”, underlined Bruno 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.
Vernon will also be the place where the production of hydrogen from renewable electricity sources will be developed, underlined the minister. A joint venture between Safran and Airbus, ArianeGroup is currently preparing its future Ariane 6 heavy launchers, whose inaugural qualification launch is scheduled for the second half of next year.