On the occasion of the celebrations to mark five successful years of service by the Columbus space laboratory on Wednesday, Astrium underscored its key industrial role in shaping the future of European space flight in the presence of Peter Hintze, Parliamentary State Secretary and Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy, Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), Dr. Thomas Reiter, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations, and Jens Böhrnsen, President of the Senate of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.
Underpinned by the unique know-how gained from Columbus and ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle, the European space cargo vehicle) operations, Europe will gain a whole new level of access to space thanks to the service module for the new American MPCV/Orion spacecraft, along with the further development of Ariane 5 ME and possibly Ariane 6—with Astrium at the forefront. The ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial level in November 2012 delivered the decisive impetus setting European space travel on this exciting course.
The European space laboratory Columbus, which was built in Bremen (Germany), has been part of the International Space Station for five years and has provided a reliable research environment for more than 200 scientific experiments. “Columbus is the flagship of European scientific engineering and a key contribution of ESA Members States to the ISS success story”, said Jean-Jacques Dordain. Columbus will be in service until at least 2020. Alongside the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) supply spaceship, Columbus is the latest illustration of Astrium’s know-how in the field of human spaceflight. The next challenge will be the provision of the MPCV-ESM (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle – European Service Module) based on capabilities developed at Astrium for Spacelab, EURECA, Columbus and ATV.
In addition to the MPCV service module, there will be a strong focus on further developing the Ariane family. Following the ESA Ministerial Council decisions in November 2012, ESA awarded Astrium contracts worth 108 million euros in January 2013 as prime contractor for developing the Ariane 5 ME and Ariane 6 launch vehicles. “We are delighted about this positive development at the European level,” said François Auque, CEO of Astrium. “For Astrium, and specifically our Bremen location, where development and production of the upper stages of the Ariane family is based, the main significance of these contracts resides in the jobs they will secure and create.”
There was a lot at stake at the 2012 Ministerial Council meeting. “This makes us all the more pleased that ESA, in spite of a challenging economic and financial environment, made decisions for the future that will enable Germany, – and thus Astrium too—to put its development expertise to work for the benefit of Europe,” said Peter Hintze, Parliamentary State Secretary and Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy. “The decision to continue the development of Ariane 5 ME with the new upper stage was important. There was a lot riding on that decision, particularly for the Bremen location with its upper stage expertise.” The launch of the first Ariane 5 ME is planned for 2017, or 2018 at the latest. In addition, a study to clarify unresolved issues around the successor launch system, Ariane 6, will be completed by mid-2013.