ArianeGroup has signed a contract with ESA for the future Prometheus engine, a European demonstrator for a very low cost engine running on liquid oxygen and methane, versions of which could be powering European launchers as of 2030.
The aim is to be able to build future liquid propellant engines with a unit cost of about 1 million euros, or 10 times less than the cost of producing existing engines such as the Vulcain®2. The success of this type of technological challenge demands an entirely new approach and the use of innovative design and production methods and tools. Apart from switching from the traditional Ariane propellant (transition from the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen combination to a combination of liquid oxygen and methane), the demonstrator will entail major developments, including digitilization of engine control and diagnostics, and manufacturing using 3D printing in a connected factory environment.
The 75 million euro contract signed by Daniel Neuenschwander, Director of Space Transportation at the European Space Agency (ESA), and Alain Charmeau, CEO of ArianeGroup, the 50/50 joint-venture set up by the Airbus and Safran groups, covers the design, manufacturing and testing of the first two examples of the Prometheus demonstrator. The French space agency (CNES) is leading in the early design process, and testing is scheduled on the P5 test bed of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Lampoldshausen, Germany, as of 2020.
Following the initial phase, which was completed in early December, the first Program Review confirmed the consistency of the design choices with engine specifications and in particular with the recurring cost targets. At the same time, subsystems testing has started with the gas generator campaign (one of the parts built using 3D printing) on the DLR’s P8 test bed in Lampoldshausen.