Safran's role on the upcoming Ariane 5 ME and Ariane 6 launchers

The ESA ministerial council meeting on November 21, 2012 approved the continuation of the Ariane 5 ME (Midlife Evolution) program, and initial design studies for the future Ariane 6 launcher. Jean-Lin Fournereaux, Safran Corporate Senior Vice President, Space, reviews Safran's expected role on these two successors to the current European launcher, Ariane 5.

How would you analyze the decisions made at the European Space Agency (ESA) Council meeting?
The ministerial-level meeting of the 20 members of ESA, in Naples on November 20 and 21, 2012, allocated over 10 billion euros to ESA programs in the next two to five years.
Several decisions directly affecting Safran's business were made: a commitment to the Ariane 6 launcher, for an expected service entry in 2021-2022, the continuation of the Ariane 5 ME program, for an upgraded version in 2017-2018, an upgrade program for the Vega light launcher over the period 2013-2016, and the continuation of the launcher operation support program. These decisions are generally in line with the major objectives in the agreement signed by French space agency CNES, Astrium (the EADS company specialized in launchers and satellites) and Safran on September 18, 2012, and are a satisfactory compromise for our Group.

What impact will these decisions have on Safran's space business?
For Ariane 5 ME, Safran will provide the Vinci cryogenic engine* developed by Snecma at its Vernon plant west of Paris. This restartable engine is the result of 15 years of research and development; it powers the launcher's upper stage, injecting the payload (two satellites) into geostationary transfer orbit. The detailed design of the Ariane 6 launcher should be finalized by 2014, continuing work already carried out. However, it was also decided that as many Ariane 5 ME technologies as possible would be reused on Ariane 6, starting with Safran's Vinci engine. For both Ariane 5 ME and Ariane 6, the next steps will be decided at an upcoming ESA ministerial council meeting in mid-2014.
Safran will continue to supply a number of major systems for Ariane 5 ME that it already provides on Ariane 5: the solid rocket boosters, which provide most of the liftoff thrust, the Vulcain 2 main stage cryogenic engine, the pressure sensors needed for launcher and satellite guidance, wiring and pyromechanisms used for stage separation and releasing satellites from the launcher.

* Cryogenic propulsion uses liquid propellants at very low temperatures (under -150°C), generally liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

Safran's space business

  • Annual sales: 900 million euros
  • Employees: 4,000
  • Since the first launch of Ariane in 1979, Safran has delivered some 1,200 rocket engines for various versions of this launcher