ArianeGroup has been given approval from the European Space Agency (ESA) to begin production on the Ariane 6.
The 22 member states of ESA agreed to a workaround to allow the production of the space launcher, despite ArianeGroup holding off due to a lower order amount of government missions than had been agreed upon.
Half of the planned 14 missions for Ariane 6 between 2020 and 2023 are supposed to be ordered from the public sector, but ArianeGroup has only had three launches ordered from European governments.
ESA has, however, guaranteed that it would cover the rest of the orders if government's do not submit proposals in a "reasonable time" for Ariane 6, but stopped short of saying it would subsidise ArianeGroup if those orders also do not materialise.
“We have an overall package for space transportation that is much broader, and there will be some dedicated measure in this overall package, but I’d say let’s see in November where we are on this," Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA’s director of space transportation, said.
“If seven launch service contracts are not signed by the ministerial at the end of November, then the ESA DG [director general Jan Woerner] will propose for decision to member states to complement the revenues needed for the first Ariane 64."
The inaugural flight of Ariane 6 is due for July 2020, however it will now be a race against time to achieve that target, with full-scale production yet to begin on the spacecraft.
André-Hubert Roussel, ArianeGroup CEO, has insisted that the next launcher will be built in time for the company's first government customer.
“If you make a very simple calculation, starting from April 2019 means a second flight in April 2021,” Roussel said.
“This is exactly the time frame where the first customer, the European Commission, wants to launch Galileo satellites. It was super important for us to be able to start to produce, otherwise we would have had to tell European Commission that we would not be on time.”
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