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To retain its own independent launch capability and meet its customers’ increasingly diverse needs, the European Space Agency (ESA) set in train the Ariane 6 programme in 2014.
Ariane 64 will have four solid-rocket boosters, giving it the ability like Ariane 5 to place two telecommunications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit. Ariane 62, meanwhile, will have two boosters and is therefore designed chiefly to launch scientific and Earth-observing satellites into low and medium Earth orbits, while also offering the capacity to loft a single satellite payload into geostationary orbit.
Both variants of the launcher will feature an upper stage powered by the new Vinci engine, capable of reigniting to inject one or more satellites into very specific orbits. Ariane 6 will also have two new P120C solid-rocket boosters and a new 2.1 version of the Vulcain engine. Technology innovations will include additive manufacturing (AM) and friction-stir-welding to fabricate the launcher’s propellant tanks.
ESA is providing programme oversight and has delegated responsibility to ArianeGroup for the design and integration of Ariane 6, as well as for marketing launch services through its Arianespace subsidiary. It has appointed CNES as prime contractor for development of ground facilities in French Guiana, which include a new launch pad and alterations to the spaceport.
CNES is also providing oversight support to ESA and support to ArianeGroup, the launcher prime contractor, in addition to its prerogatives under the French Space Operations Act (FSOA).