Face to face: Marc Ventre, Safran Executive Vice President, Aerospace Propulsion branch.
How have Safran group companies, especially Snecma, contributed to Ariane's success?
The Safran group and its constituent companies have always been full-fledged participants in the story of the European launcher, Ariane. For its first mission, on December 24, 1979, the new launcher was equipped with engines by SEP (Société Européenne de Propulsion): four Viking V engines on the first stage, one Viking IV on the second stage and an HM7 on the third stage. Snecma took over in June 1984 when it took control of SEP. All versions of the Ariane launcher introduced since then have used the same manufacturer's engines, a key to its success.
What are Safran's contributions to the current versions of Ariane 5?
Working alone or in partnership, Safran makes all propulsion systems for Ariane 5, starting with the Vulcain 2 (main stage) and HM-7B (upper stage) cryogenic rocket engines, plus associated equipment. In addition, Snecma is prime contractor for the Vinci upper-stage engine, now under development, which will power future upgraded versions of Ariane 5. Europropulsion, a 50/50 joint venture of Safran and Avio (Italy) is in charge of the solid booster motors. Snecma Propulsion Solide offers leading-edge expertise in this and related areas. For Ariane 5, it makes the solid rocket motor nozzles and the liquid helium tanks for the upper stage. Three other Group companies are involved, namely Techspace Aero, which makes the control valves used to inject the propellants and control their mixture, Labinal, in charge of the wiring harnesses on the main stage and the Vulcain engine, and Sagem, which supplies the gyros for the guidance system.
In conclusion, what does this space program bring the Group?
Space is a strategically important sector for Safran, because it underpins the development of cutting edge technologies that can be applied to aircraft, such as carbon-impregnated fabrics. Originally developed for launchers, these composite materials have been used to make lighter and stronger nozzles, and are of course behind the amazing development of carbon brakes. Messier-Bugatti, also a Group company, is now the world's leading supplier of aircraft carbon brakes thanks to this innovation. The space sector also makes widespread use of ceramic matrix composites (CMC), a material that we are starting to use in the turbine blades on latest-generation military and commercial engines, such as the Leap-X.