[SatNews] Astrium, prime contractor for the development of Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (ME), a European Space Agency program, and Air Liquide, a specialist in cryogenics for space applications, have agreed to establish a new joint venture, which will, in the future, lead the development and the production of cryogenic tanks for Ariane 5 ME upperstage.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has already been signed by the two companies. The construction of a purpose-built facility close to Astrium's Bremen site is set to begin in 2011. The joint venture should generate some 40 new jobs. Ariane 5 ME is a major ESA program that will upgrade the current Ariane 5 launcher so the launch vehicle can cater to the market demand for increased launch capacity. The program was decided at the Space Ministerial Conference in 2008. Germany has significantly increased its participation in the program with 35 percent of the development budget.
Astrium and Air Liquide, partners for more than 40 years on the Ariane program, have decided the best way to deal with this complex project is to pool their competencies and build on their existing Cryospace joint venture in Les Mureaux, France, by opening a new site in Bremen, Germany. Cryospace in Les Mureaux, and Air Liquide Advanced Technologies division in Sassenage, France will continue to produce the fuel tanks for the current versions (ECA and ES) of the Ariane 5 launchers. The first launch of the Ariane 5 ME is scheduled for the end of 2016.