Techspace Aero preparing the future of Ariane 5
On February 7, 2013, Arianespace successfully completed the 54th Ariane 5 launch in a row by orbiting two telecommunications satellites – Amazonas 3 and Africasat-1a – and set a new payload record into the bargain! Techspace Aero is one of the engineers of this European success story as it supplies cryogenic valves for the Vulcain II main-stage engine. These valves are true precision pieces, capable of withstanding extreme levels of temperature, pressure and vibration. "Some of these valves feed the engine with oxygen and hydrogen, stored in a liquid state at -183°C and -253°C respectively, while others are designed to tolerate temperatures in excess of 800°C," explains Jérôme d'Agruma, Head of Space Programs at Techspace Aero. Other than their exceptional strength, these components must offer perfect tightness and open in a few hundred milliseconds and precisely. "Since the early days of the Ariane launcher, we have supplied over 12,000 of these devices, with 100% operational reliability," d'Agruma proudly points out.
A new version of Ariane 5
The teams at Techspace Aero are now working on an upgrade program for the rocket – the Ariane 5ME (Midlife Evolution). This new version of the launcher will be capable of carrying a payload of 12 tonnes into geostationary transfer orbit, compared with the current 10-tonne ceiling. This is made possible by the ESC-B upper stage, powered by the new-generation Vinci cryogenic engine, developed by Safran, for which Techspace Aero will supply the main valves.
A "more electric" launcher
At present, all valves on Ariane 5 are pneumatic: they are actuated by gas pressure. On the Vinci engine, for the very first time, there will be two 100% electric valves, thus paving the way to a more electric launcher – an underlying trend that is already making its mark in the aeronautics sector. "These new-generation valves will offer greater flexibility and precision for controls, but with no compromise on reliability," promises d'Agruma.
Techspace Aero, which invests over 15% of its sales revenue in Research & Development every year, will also be producing some of the upper stage valves. "Our ultimate aim is to produce all of the fluid instrumentation and control equipment for the launcher," stresses d'Agruma. Meanwhile, the company is also responsible for designing all of the valves of the Score-D demonstrator, introduced by the European Space Agency to prepare the technologies of next-generation launchers.
* Propulsion system using very low temperature fuels, such as liquid hydrogen and oxygen.