The French government appears to have buckled to German demands on key European space programs on Nov. 21, accepting that an enhanced Ariane 5 rocket will be developed to completion for a first flight in 2017 and that Europe contribute to NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle as part of its space station program.
In an informal briefing with reporters here as a two-day meeting of European Space Agency (ESA) governments ended, French Research Minister Genevieve Fioraso said France had accepted that the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution rocket, which Germany had supported and France had questioned, be developed and flown.
Fioraso said France had agreed to contribute 20 percent to Europe’s development of a propulsion module for NASA’s Orion vehicle — a development that France had criticized as having little political or technological use for Europe.
France also agreed to maintain its 27 percent share of Europe’s overall contributions to the international space station. The agreement on the space station budget, and the contribution to NASA’s Orion, will permit ESA to maintain its role in the station until 2020.
Fioraso said the ministerial conference, and notably Germany, accepted the need to develop a less-expensive successor to Ariane 5, and that the Ariane 6 vehicle’s design work should start immediately.
This vehicle, whose costs have been estimated at around 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion), is intended as a design-to-cost, less-powerful rocket when compared to the current Ariane 5 ECA, and one that would replace both the Ariane 5 and Europe’s use of the Russian medium-class Soyuz rocket around 2021.
Fiorosa said she was proud that Europe and NASA will be working together on the future Orion crew exploration vehicle.
The French decision to drop from its overall 27 percent share of Europe’s space station program to just 20 percent for the Orion work is one reason why ESA was seeking other governments’ support for the program.
ESA struck pay dirt from a surprising source, when British Science Minister David Willetts on Nov. 21 announced that Britain, which has steered clear of investment in the space station up to now, agreed to spend 20 million euros on the Orion work.
Briefing reporters here, Willetts said the British contribution would be used to develop Orion propulsion module telecommunications elements, a British specialty. He mentioned the British subsidiaries of Moog of the United States and Com Dev of Canada as likely beneficiaries of the British investment.
Europe has been building Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo carriers to acquit itself of what otherwise would be a debt to NASA, as the space station’s general contractor, for station utilities charges.
But ESA decided to stop ATV construction after the fifth vehicle, leaving about three years of station-utilities charges unpaid starting in 2018. NASA and ESA had agreed that these charges, totaling about 450 million euros, could be paid through European contributions to Orion’s propulsion module.
France had said Orion leaves Europe as a junior partner to NASA and does not offer a showcase program that European citizens could appreciate. But France was at pains to come up with an alternative that was affordable in Europe and acceptable to NASA.
France held out until early Nov. 21, government officials said, hoping to bend Germany to France’s will with respect to Ariane 5 ME and Ariane 6.
After what French and German government officials said was a near-sleepless night, the end result is that Ariane 6 will be studied until 2014 and then, perhaps, proceed to development – depending on the financial resources of France and other governments.
But work on the Ariane 5 ME rocket, with a restartable upper-stage engine that French officials say will also serve Ariane 6, will continue in view to a demonstration flight in 2017. Fioraso said a maximum amount of synergy will be found between Ariane 5 ME and Ariane 6.
Ariane 5 ME will give the current Ariane 5 ECA a 20 percent increase in payload-carrying power, a fact that France had argued does not solve Ariane 5’s current operating-cost problem, nor its competitiveness handicap relative in the changing global commercial launch market.
Comparison of the Ariane 5 mid-life evolution and a concept for the Ariane 6 rocket. Credit: ESA
ESA Council at Ministerial Level in Naples on 20 November 2012
Credits: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2012
Minister beschließen Investitionen in die Raumfahrt zur Förderung von Europas Wettbewerbsfähigkeit und Wachstum
Die ESA hat eine zweitägige Ratstagung auf Ministerebene im italienischen Neapel erfolgreich hinter sich gebracht. Auf dieser Tagung haben die Ressortminister der 20 Mitgliedstaaten der ESA und Kanadas heute rund 10 Milliarden Euro für Raumfahrttätigkeiten und programme in den nächsten Jahren bewilligt.
Neben den Mitgliedstaaten und Kanada waren auf der Ministerratstagung auch zahlreiche Beobachter anwesend: sieben der neun der ESA noch nicht angehörenden Mitgliedstaaten der EU (Estland, Lettland, Litauen, Malta, die Slowakische Republik, Ungarn und Zypern) sowie die Europäische Kommission, die Europäische Organisation für die Nutzung von Wettersatelliten (EUMETSAT), die Europäische Wissenschaftsstiftung, die Europäische Verteidigungsagentur (EVA), die Europäische Agentur für die Sicherheit des Seeverkehrs (EMSA), die Agentur für das europäische GNSS (GSA) und die Organisation für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (OECD).
Die Minister haben die Investitionen vorrangig auf Bereiche mit hohem Wachstumspotenzial bzw. unmittelbaren ökonomischen Auswirkungen wie Telekommunikation und Meteorologie ausgerichtet. Sie haben das Mittelvolumen der obligatorischen Tätigkeiten der ESA für den Zeitraum 2013–2017 und die Vorschläge für die Erdbeobachtung genehmigt und Europas Verpflichtung in Bezug auf den Einsatz der Internationalen Raumstation (ISS) bestätigt.
Die Minister haben außerdem Investitionen für die detaillierten Entwurfsstudien des neuen Trägers Ariane 6 und die Fortsetzung der Entwicklung der angepassten Ariane 5 ME gesichert mit dem Ziel, so viele Gemeinsamkeiten wie möglich zwischen den beiden Trägern zu entwickeln. Diese Tätigkeiten werden für einen Zeitraum von zwei Jahren finanziert; 2014 soll ein Beschluss über die weitere Entwicklung beider Träger gefasst werden.
Ferner haben die Minister grünes Licht für die Bereitstellung eines europäischen Versorgungsmoduls für das Mehrzweck-Mannschaftsfahrzeug (MPCV) des neuen NASA-Raumtransporters Orion als Sachbeitrag für den ISS-Betrieb von 2017 bis 2020 gegeben. Diese Entscheidung ist für Europa von strategischer Bedeutung, da durch sie eine Zusammenarbeit zwischen der ESA und der NASA beim künftigen bemannten Raumtransportsystem ermöglicht wird.
Darüber hinaus haben die Minister der ESA-Mitgliedstaaten eine politische Erklärung zur Weiterentwicklung der ESA zu der Europa den größten Nutzen bringenden europäischen Weltraumorganisation angenommen. Damit haben sie einen Prozess zur Bestimmung der Art und Weise in die Wege geleitet, in die der ESA ihre Betriebsabläufe dahingehend anpassen kann, dass sie sowohl aus ihrem zwischenstaatlichen Rahmen als auch der Raumfahrtzuständigkeiten der EU Nutzen zieht. Sie brachten des weiteren ihre Bereitschaft zum Ausdruck, die Koordinierung und Kohärenz zwischen dem auf Seiten der ESA und dem auf Seiten der EU in die Wege geleiteten Prozess zu gewährleisten. Diese politische Erklärung wurde auch von den Ministern der auf der Tagung vertretenen sieben EU-Mitgliedstaaten befürwortet, die der ESA noch nicht angehören.
Abschließend haben die Minister beschlossen, die nächste Ratstagung auf Ministerebene für das Frühjahr 2014 einzuberufen.
Die angenommenen Entschließungen
Die Minister haben folgende vier Entschließungen angenommen:
die Entschließung über die Rolle der ESA bei der Unterstützung von Wettbewerbsfähigkeit und Wachstum mit den politischen und programmatischen Schwerpunkten der Tagung,
die Entschließung über das Mittelvolumen der obligatorischen Tätigkeiten der Organisation im Zeitraum 2013–2017 zur Finanzierung des Wissenschaftlichen Programms und der grundlegenden Tätigkeiten,
die Erneuerung des Beitrags der ESA-Mitgliedstaaten zu den laufenden Kosten des Raumfahrtzentrums Guayana, Europas Raumflughafen in Französisch-Guayana, und
die politische Erklärung zur Weiterentwicklung der ESA zu der Europa den größten Nutzen bringenden europäischen Weltraumorganisation.
Mit dieser letzten Entschließung wird ein Prozess für die weitere Entwicklung der ESA in die Wege geleitet, der es ermöglichen soll, aus den Kompetenzen und Erfolgen der ESA Kapital zu schlagen und gleichzeitig vollen Nutzen aus den politischen Maßnahmen der EU zu ziehen. Der Prozess soll den weiteren Erfolg der ESA als die auf Forschung und Entwicklung ausgerichtete Weltraumorganisation für Europa, die Mitgliedstaaten und die EU gewährleisten.
Ariane 6: Kunden haben das Sagen
A6.1 would loft the big telecoms satellites; A6.2 would put up the low-orbiting, Earth-observation spacecraft
Europe's rocket industry is currently going through something of an epiphany - the realisation that it must adapt, and fast, or simply become irrelevant.
More than half of the big commercial satellites that are working up there - the ones that relay our TV, phone calls, and internet traffic - were lofted by Ariane vehicles. But that dominance is now under threat from new launchers that promise to undercut Europe's best on price.
America's SpaceX - there's no need to whisper the name - is wooing satellite operators with rides on its Falcon 9, for ticket prices that substantially undercut the Ariane 5.
Efforts have been made to push forward with a next-generation European rocket - an Ariane 6 - that could be made much more cheaply. But the concept, which has been studied for the past 18 months, has left most observers flat.
More importantly, it has underwhelmed the satellite operators as well, which is why a new concept has now been sprung on the world by Airbus Defence and Space, and Safran - the main players in Ariane production.
André-Hubert Roussel, the head of launchers at Airbus, said they were left with no choice but to react.
"Clearly, there was a strong feedback, which was even given in written form by some commercial operators, that the original design was not fulfilling their needs, in terms of cost, in terms of schedule, and in terms of the risks we would have been taking with what some saw as a kind of disruptive approach, such as a totally new supply chain and a completely new launch pad," he told me.
Airbus and Safran have actually proposed two new concepts - a "heavy" and a "medium" -class version of Ariane 6.
They call them Ariane 6.1 and Ariane 6.2.
The 6.1 would do what Ariane 5 does now - loft the really big telecoms satellites, often two at a time, up to a total payload of 8.5 tonnes.
The 6.2 would be used to place spacecraft into what are called Sun-synchronous orbits. These are the low-Earth orbits used by Earth observation missions, and Europe tends to use the Russian Soyuz rocket for this job currently. Ariane 6.2 would replace Soyuz.
What is interesting about the new concepts is the degree to which they lean much more heavily on their heritage.
"Our new proposal for Ariane 6 is driven by the desire to serve both institutional and commercial customers at a competitive price," explained Mr Roussel.
Vulcain engine: Safran believes it can lower the cos
"This led us quite quickly to the conclusion that we needed, first, a family of launchers with a majority of commonalities, and, second, that this family should leverage the fantastic track record of Ariane 5, and not to introduce disruption that would be very expensive for industry and damage the competence, etc.
"With a family we also get to improve the cadence. In this business, the fixed costs are significant because of the low flight rate. So as soon as you increase the number of launches, you obtain very direct benefits that translate into the price of the launcher."
Whereas the original Ariane 6 concept would use lower-stages comprising all solid-fuel motors (a big departure from the Ariane 5), the 6.1 and 6.2 variants retain a liquid-fuelled (cryogenic) core-stage and the Vulcain engine that currently helps get the 5 off the pad.
"A lot of work has been done to show how the performance of the Vulcain can be maintained, or even improved a little bit, whilst at the same time pushing down the cost," said Mr Roussel.
The key difference between the 6.1 and 6.2 is the choice of upper-stage. For the heavy rocket, this would be the new Vinci engine, which is being developed to give the present Ariane 5 a boost in power. The 6.2 would use the ES/Aestus engine, which Ariane 5 uses occasionally now.
All of these elements would incorporate the very latest materials and production techniques.
The ES/Aestus upper-stage engine, used occasionally now by the Ariane 5, would feature on the Ariane 6.2
There would be no new launch complex, and the expectation is that the first flight could be done before the end of the decade - earlier than anticipated for the original 6 design.
Critically, industry will also have to re-structure, and Airbus and Safran have begun that process by announcing the merger of their rocket divisions.
Get it all right and there's a good chance Europe can produce rockets fit for the 21st Century, with operating price points that can continue to entice customers.
"It is difficult to comment today on what the pricing policy will be. But through this new design, we strongly believe we will be competitive enough in terms of cost, so that we can profitably face the challenges as they are today but also as they might be in a few years," said the Airbus executive.
The European and French space agencies, which have been overseeing Ariane 6 feasibility studies, have yet to give a public verdict on the 6.1/6.2 combo. But it is hard to see how they can ignore the people who would be asked to build the next Ariane.
We're set for some fascinating discussions in the weeks and months leading up to 2 December. It is then that Europe's space ministers will meet to decide the continent's rocket future at an Esa council in Luxembourg.
The original design was dominated by solid-fuel motors and could lift telecom satellites up to 6.5 tonnes
“We need Ariane 6” say sat-operators
A letter signed by almost all of the world’s major satellite operators has been sent to the European Space Agency saying that if it doesn’t authorise and start building the new Ariane-6 rocket then Arianespace risks being an “also ran” as far as competitive launch activity is concerned. The letter was discussed at Euroconsult’s Business Week event in Paris.
One option is that the existing Ariane-5 rocket be upgraded as an interim measure, but the letter (to ESA Director Jacques Dordain) says this is not a sensible option, and might only be introduced around 2018.
Instead the letter urges the new Ariane-6 design to be in place – and working – by 2019, or else risk that Arianespace itself be seriously sidelined. The estimates are that it will take some $3 billion to finish the task.
Signatories to the letter include Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat, Inmarsat, Hispasat and HellasSat. Eutelsat itself indicated that it was prepared to commit to the debut launch flight of an Ariane-6 rocket – provided it was in place and ready to go by 2019.
Quelle: Advanced Television Ltd
ESA´s-Ariane 6 Kostenschätzung steigt mit der Zugabe von Startrampe
PARIS — The European Space Agency on Sept. 23 presented to seven of their governments an updated plan for developing the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket, with lower estimated recurring production costs but a higher overall development cost owing to the need for a new, Ariane 6-dedicated launch pad, European government and industry officials said.
Meeting in Zurich, ministers from seven ESA member states — France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland — asked the 20-nation ESA and industry to continue to refine Ariane 6 cost estimates. They agreed to meet Nov. 13 in Cologne, Germany, to review progress.
Time is running short if ESA governments wish to maintain a Dec. 2 conference of ESA nations to make firm financial commitments on future launchers. As expected, the Sept. 23 meeting discussed only in passing, and in no detail, Europe’s future role in the international space station.
ESA governments have only halfway committed to continued space station use to 2020. The funding needed to keep up their commitments to the station under the current arrangements with NASA, the station’s general contractor, is expected to be decided at the December meeting.
But given some nations’ financial hardship, it is unclear whether the meeting, even if it is maintained, will be able to do more than sign off on funding for more than a year or two.
Also to be reviewed at the December meeting is the ExoMars two-launch mission to Mars, with Russia as a partner, in 2016 and 2018. Financing for the 2016 mission appears assured, but the 2018 launch, including a European rover, has not been secured.
Development of the latest Ariane 6 configuration — an upgraded Vulcain 2 main cryogenic stage topped by a Vinci-engine-powered upper stage flanked by two or four solid-rocket boosters each carrying 120,000 kilograms of propellant — would cost about 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) and could be ready as early as 2020, according to the proposal presented by ESA.
The cost figure includes some 700 million euros for an all-new launch installation at Europe’s Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America.
Earlier designs assumed that the launch complex for the current Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket could be modified to host Ariane 6, saving substantial costs.
“It now appears that the ELA-3 [the Ariane 5 installation] will require so many modifications and upgrades for Ariane 6 that it would be better to build an entirely new facility,” one official said. “But all these costs need to be studied more carefully in the coming weeks.”
ESA and the Airbus-Safran joint venture that proposes to manage Ariane development also floated per-launch costs that were lower than previous estimates. The lighter-version Ariane 62, with two solid-rocket boosters, could be built for as little as 65 million euros assuming a nine-per-year launch rhythm, officials said.
The heavier Ariane 64, intended mainly for the commercial market and capable of carrying two satellites weighing a combined 11,000 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit, could be built for 85 million euros each, again assuming a nine-per-year production rate.
Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders made a brief statement to the ministers restating his proposal that the Airbus-Safran team assume the role of the Ariane 6 design authority, a function now assured by ESA and the French space agency, CNES.
While no other Ariane 5 configuration is on the table, there remains the question of whether Germany will refuse to commit to Ariane 6 without an agreement from France and the rest of ESA to build the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution rocket, which also would use the Vinci upper stage and which has been in development for a decade.
To complete Ariane 5 ME, which would carry more satellite payload than the current Ariane 5 ECA, would cost about 1.2 billion euros. The vehicle could be ready for a first launch in 2018.
German officials have argued that Ariane 5 ME is the surest, least risky investment choice for the moment, at least until Ariane 6’s cost and performance is fully assessed.
But it is not clear that producing both vehicles would fit inside ESA’s financial cap of 8 billion euros over 10 years for launchers, including continued operations of Ariane 5 and the Vega small-satellite rocket.
ESA and the industry team say the newly reimagined Ariane 6 includes so many synergies with Ariane 5 and ongoing development work that it could be built in time for a first launch in 2020.
Introducing into the mix the Ariane 5 ME — which would fly only two years before Ariane 6 — makes little sense, especially since it likely would exceed the cost cap. More importantly, these officials said, it would force a delay in the Ariane 5, to perhaps 2025, as ESA spreads out development charges to stay within the agreed-to financial corridor.
Large satellite fleet operators — Ariane 5’s main customers — and the Arianespace launch service consortium, which operates the vehicle, have all lined up behind Ariane 6. So has the French government, which has agreed to pay about 50 percent of the costs.
Germany is indispensable in the negotiations because it is being asked to increase the amount it spends annually on launch vehicles. One official said the expected German role in Ariane 6 would boost Germany’s annual spending on Ariane from 100 million to around 170 million euros per year.
ESA will Deutschland bei Ariane-6 Projekt für sich gewinnen!
The European Space Agency is proposing to inject 8 billion euros ($10 billion) into Europe’s launch sector over 10 years starting in 2015, including some 4.3 billion euros on a new Ariane 6 rocket, on the basis of a contract arrangement with industry in which ESA guarantees five government missions per year and, in return, industry fends for itself on the wider commercial market.
The proposal, delivered in the form of a 19-page response (see below) to Ariane 6 questions posed by Germany — the only big ESA member that has resisted the program — says the new Ariane 6 will cost ESA governments less to use than the current Ariane 5 and Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket.
And unlike Ariane 5, which requires around 100 million euros per year of government support to keep launch service provider Arianespace from suffering financial losses, the Ariane 6 proposal says ESA will pay a marginal support cost only for government missions, and none for commercial launches.
The document, signed by ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and tiled “Answers to Questions of Germany,” is dated Oct. 29 and has been sent to all ESA member states. ESA government ministers are scheduled to meet Dec. 2 in Luxembourg, where they will be asked to endorse the entire program.
Industry, led by Ariane 5 prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space and engine builder Safran, will be obliged to commit to an Ariane 6 price and schedule before ESA governments commit their financing. A series of milestone payments from ESA will follow program advances made by industry.
Airbus and Safran have agreed to form a joint-venture company, with other Ariane contractors to be added later, to manage Ariane 6. The two companies delivered to ESA on Oct. 27 a full Ariane 6 contract proposal with fixed-price commitments.
The proposal is now being examined by two independent ESA committees, which have been asked to deliver their final assessments in time for a Nov. 13 meeting, in Cologne, Germany, of ministers from key ESA governments — notably France, Germany and Italy — that are expected to finance most of the vehicles’ development.
The ESA document leaves several questions unanswered, perhaps inevitably given that it is projecting events over a 10-year period that depend in large measure on the global commercial satellite-launch market. That market totals no more than 25 commercial launches per year, often less, and as such is susceptible to being destabilized if only a handful of launch decisions go one way rather than another.
Among the big unknowns: the sustainability of the low commercial launch costs offered by Space Exploration Technology Corp. and that company’s launch rate; the ambitions of China and India in the commercial market and Western governments’ willingness to allow these vehicles to launch Western commercial satellites; whether Russia and Ukraine are viewed in 10 years as reliable sources of launch services.
The ESA document says the agency’s Ariane 6 development model gives industry enough cover — five European government-paid launches per year, on average, to 2024 — to generate economies of scale to assure profit through its success on the commercial market.
The Ariane 6 will come in two models — Ariane 62 and the heavier Ariane 64 — that are basically the same rocket but with added solid-rocket boosters.
The solid-rocket boosters are the same technology used on Europe’s Vega small-satellite launcher, providing synergies between Vega and Ariane 6 that should further help industry keep costs down through scale economies.
The ESA proposal does not fully respond to a German concern about overall costs. ESA governments had agreed to spend 750 million euros per year on launchers for the 10-year period. They agreed, if tentatively, to permit an 800-million-euro annual investment only if ESA could find corresponding savings for the difference.
ESA’s response: It has not been able to find the 500 million euros in savings over the 10-year horizon, but “we are not far.”
Here is the agency’s logic: Each Ariane 64 will be priced, for government missions, at 115 million euros when measured in 2014 economic conditions, compared to today’s Ariane 5, priced at 165 million euros.
That means a 50-million-euro savings for each Ariane 64 launch for European government customers, or 25 million euros per satellite given that Ariane 64 business model, like that of the current Ariane 5, rests on launching two customer satellites at a time.
ESA has identified seven Ariane 64 government missions — including two, the launch of the Juice mission to Jupiter and the Inspire science mission, which use the entire launcher — between 2021 and 2024.
Flying these missions on Ariane 64 instead of Ariane 5 would result in savings to ESA governments of 225 million euros.
In addition, the agency has identified 12 government missions that would fly on the less-powerful Ariane 62 rocket, to replace the current use of the Europeanized Soyuz vehicle starting in 2020 or 2021. Each Ariane 62 would be priced at 70 million euros for governments, or at least 10 million euros less than today’s Europeanized Soyuz, for a savings of 120 million euros.
The total savings of 345 million euros falls short of the 500 million euros promised, but ESA said it does not account for the 10 Vega missions likely during the same period.
Given the synergies in the production of solid-rocket boosters and stages for Ariane 6 and Vega, ESA says, additional savings to governments will be realized even if they cannot be quantified at this point.
Whether the ESA document will be sufficient to rally Germany to Ariane 6 is unclear, but industry and government officials asked to comment on it said it makes German acceptance more likely.
Germany’s adhesion to Ariane 6, and its agreement to scrap the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution vehicle, will not solve the question of whether the Italian government will be able to invest at a level needed for the Vega and Ariane 6 programs.
Germany Agrees to Forgo Ariane 5 Upgrade in Favor of Next-generation Launcher
PARIS — The German government has agreed to drop its demand that Europe develop a long-planned upgrade of today’s Ariane 5 rocket and instead proceed with a new-generation Ariane 6 that borrows heavily on Ariane 5 technology, Germany’s space minister said.
The decision ends an impasse that has bedeviled the European Space Agency for more than two years as it prepares for a Dec. 2 conference of its governments.
While noting that certain funding details and a clarification of industry’s risk-taking guarantee remain to be ironed out, Brigitte Zypries said Germany and France now agree to back Ariane 6 and to scrap the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (ME) rocket that European governments have been developing for several years.
“We have found a compromise that is OK for both countries, for the other participating states and also for industry,” Zypries said in a Nov. 15 emailed response to SpaceNews questions. “The important elements are the joint intention to develop a new launcher as part of a concept based mainly on Ariane 5 ME technology and Vega, and a new launcher governance.”
Vega is the Italian-led small-satellite launcher. A Vega upgrade, along with Ariane 6, Europe’s participation in the international space station and a European Mars exploration project will all be on the table at the ministerial conference in Luxembourg.
The debate about future Ariane 5 investment has been the major roadblock to an agreement on all these subjects. Germany had said the Ariane 6 business model, industrial work-share distribution and the role of Ariane manufacturers in assuming market risk all were too ill-defined to permit a full-scale go-ahead.
Zypries is Germany’s parliamentary state secretary in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and the government’s coordinator for aviation and space policy.
Her French counterpart, Genevieve Fioraso, who is state secretary in the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research, alluded to a French-German agreement in a briefing with journalists Nov. 12.
Fioraso and Zypries met Nov. 13 in Cologne, Germany, with ministers from Italy and several other governments.
Germany had said the Ariane 5 ME, which is basically today’s Ariane 5 with a new, multi-ignition upper stage and about 20 percent more power, is a much lower-risk endeavor and should be approved before any commitment to Ariane 6.
France had argued otherwise, first by proposing a solid-fuel-based Ariane 6 that found little support in industry or among commercial satellite fleet operators — the main customers for today’s Ariane 5 — and then by aligning with a proposal by Ariane prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space and motor-maker Safran on Ariane 6.
The Ariane 6 comes in two models: an Ariane 62 that would be used mainly for government missions to medium- and low-Earth orbit, and a heavier Ariane 64 with solid-rocket boosters that would share technologies with the enhanced Vega rocket.
The new Ariane 6 program model, as described by ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain in an Oct. 29 response questions from Germany, would force industry to assume the risks associated with the commercial market, meaning no more annual government support payments to permit the launch services business to make ends meet.
In return, European governments would guarantee an average of five launches per year using Ariane, at set prices, to allow industry enough business to attack the commercial market on its own.
The new Ariane 6 approach thus represents a climb-down from the earlier positions held by both the French and German governments, and by ESA, whose governments in late 2012 agreed to fund initial studies of the now-scrapped, solid-fueled Ariane 6 design.
The Ariane 6 rocket would be ready for an inaugural flight in 2020.
ESA has proposed to spend 8 billion euros ($10 billion) in total on launchers beween 2015 and 2024, including some 4.3 billion euros on Ariane 6, including a new launch pad at Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport in French Guiana. The price-support payments, which now average some 100 million euros per year, could continue until Ariane 6 is operational.
Zypries said Germany would insist that the 10-year commitment, which ESA has proposed be divided into payments to be released only after industry has reached certain milestones, be subject to a review at the next ESA ministerial conference, scheduled for 2016.
France has said it would finance 50 percent of Ariane 6’s development. The German contribution is expected to be around 20 percent, with Italy and a handful of other ESA governments paying the rest.
With the key strategic issue now settled between France and Germany, governments and industry will focus on several outstanding questions related to Ariane 6. Among them: What happens if governments cannot maintain a five-per-year launch rate for their own satellites? Does industry then have a right to demand support payments as it battles Space Exploration Technologies Corp., also known as SpaceX, of the United States, Russia’s Proton and other rockets on the commercial market?
“Governance, meaning the share of risk between public and industry, needs some more work,” Zypries said.
European governments have not yet firmly committed to maintaining their share of international space station work through 2020, although they agree that 2020 is all but certain. Beyond 2020 — NASA wants to operate the facility through 2024 — is an open question.
In 2012 Germany agreed to increase its share of total European space station funding following the collapse of Italy’s contribution in the face of the financial crisis in Italy. France also has hesitated on space station support, and German officials have said Germany will no longer provide a financial backstop for other nations’ station roles.
Zypries said Germany, France and Italy, Europe’s top three station backers, have reached an unwritten understanding that all of them will return to the space station percentage shares they agreed to in 1995 at an ESA ministerial conference in Toulouse, France.
“We underlined that the compromise includes the funding of the space station as the ESA executive has proposed, meaning the Toulouse key,” Zypries said. “France and Italy did not object, which we take to mean that they have the same understanding.”
The Italian-led ExoMars program, a two-launch mission in 2016 and 2018, meanwhile, remains short of needed financing by around 200 million euros. Zypries said no decisions were reached on this program, but that “Germany proposed to offer some in-kind contribution” beyond its agreed-to financial contribution level.
Ministers to chart Ariane rocket's future
Key decisions on Europe's capability and activity in space will be taken by research ministers on Tuesday.
They will come together in Luxembourg to resolve the future of the Ariane rocket and the continent's involvement in the International Space Station.
The European Space Agency's (Esa) Council Meeting at Ministerial Level also has the Red Planet on its agenda.
Money must be found to fill a budget hole in the flagship ExoMars mission due to leave Earth in 2018.
But it is an agreement on a next-generation Ariane launcher that will be pivotal to the outcome of the gathering.
Ministers look set to approve the full development of a new rocket to replace the continent’s existing workhorse.
The Ariane 5 has come to dominate the market for putting up big commercial satellites, but it is now under pressure from competitor services offering lower prices.
A new Ariane 6 concept has been proposed, and ministers must sanction the way ahead and fund it.
They are being asked to commit 3.8 billion euros (£3bn; $4.7bn), which will cover not only the A6’s development but also an upgrade to Esa’s small Italian-built Vega rocket.
It has taken months of negotiation to get to this point, involving government and industry.
France, which has been most keen to move to a next-generation launcher, will be putting up most of the money on Tuesday.
But it needs Germany’s support financially and programmatically.
The Germans had wanted a two-step project involving an upgrade to the existing Ariane 5, but they are now ready to forego this demand – provided their interests are also satisfied on the space station.
Johann-Dietrich Woerner, who heads the country’s national space agency (DLR), told the BBC: “We will participate in A6 with a big amount of money, up to 20% if necessary for the overall programme, but it depends also that France and Italy are going ahead with the ISS.
“They said that if Germany participates in A6, if it agrees in A6 – then they will participate in the ISS. Now that Germany agrees, I expect France and Italy to confirm their proposal.”
Germany has long been the leading Esa member state on the ISS.
It has borne most of the financial burden and will again make the largest contribution to the 820 million euros being requested on Tuesday.
This money will support Esa activities on the orbiting platform through until 2017.
Of major interest at the meeting will be the position taken by the UK.
For years, it refrained from any ISS involvement even though it was an original signatory to the treaty that brought the orbiting platform into existence.
Then, at the last ministerial meeting in Napoli in 2012, Britain made what it described at the time as a "one-off, 20m-euro" contribution.
The desire was that this would lead to industrial work on the ISS – which has happened. More widely, it was seen as a gesture of thanks to Esa for recruiting the Briton Tim Peake into its astronaut corps.
But other member states are now banking on the one-off payment being turned into an ongoing contribution.
There is a financial profile for funding of the ISS that was agreed in 1995 at an Esa ministerial conference in Toulouse, France.
Germany’s space minister Brigitte Zypries says that the UK's support - as modest as it is - could be instrumental in helping Europe stick to this funding trajectory.
“Germany will fulfil its commitments on the basis of the Toulouse ‘key’, but we also expect this from our partners in Europe, especially the big countries. France, Italy and Great Britain should shoulder responsibility together with us for a stable ISS,” she told the BBC last month.
David Parker, the head of the UK Space Agency, would not discuss British strategy ahead of the meeting, adding only: "We're interested in ensuring a really successful mission for Tim Peake in 2015."
The third main element of the Luxembourg meeting concerns the ExoMars rover, which will be sent in 2018 to scour the surface of the Red Planet for signs of past or present life.
It is a project with a troubled history that has come within a breath of being cancelled on more than one occasion.
Its persistent woe is a shortfall in the money needed to carry the venture through to completion. This gap is on the order of 200 million euros. Ministers will be asked to plug the hole.
How much they will have left to offer after matching the needs of the expensive Ariane 6 and ISS programmes is highly uncertain, however.