Discover the clever Astris stage which will make Ariane 6 more versatile and attractive. This ” kick stage Will be able to bring satellites to the last kilometer of their final orbital position and place payloads in different orbits during the same flight. Explanations from Pier Domenica Resta, ESA manager of the team in charge of the Ariane 6 launch system.
The profound changes and technological breakthroughs that have weakened thein this market have pushed Europe to develop . This launcher, less expensive than its predecessor, is part of the technological heritage left by but incorporates new elements including Astris, an additional stage which will come into service in 2024.
To improve Ariane 6’s competitiveness and maintain its leadership with its customers, rather than focusing on reusability – a technology that is not sufficiently mastered in Europe for the moment -, theand ArianeGroup are betting on a launcher capable of placing satellites in orbit with unprecedented precision. Astris was especially designed for this.
Of course, it is less attractive to the general public than, but satellite operators will very quickly understand the economic interest of this stage capable of bringing satellites to the last kilometer of their position final. Such a performance allows the satellites to use very small quantities of fuel which can thus either have more than for their operational life, or increase their payload.
While we await the inaugural flight of Ariane 6, scheduled at best for the end of spring 2022, the European Space Agency has decided to equip its future launcher with a new additional stage which “ will extend the capabilities of Ariane 6 and increase the attractiveness of the launcher “, Explains Pier Domenica Resta, responsible at ESA for the team in charge of the Ariane 6 launch system. Astris is the name of this stage,” anticipates future needs inspace transport to ensure that Europe remains competitive in the global satellite launch market », Specifies ArianeGroup who will realize it.
The Astris module will have optimized propulsion capacities intended for Ariane 6. © ESA
To limit development costs to “ only 90 million euros and to achieve it in less than three years », Emphasizes Pier Domenica Resta, this floor will use mastered technologies. No innovation therefore, but a stage which will offer the Ariane 6 launcher ” flexibility and versatility that Ariane 5 did not have ».
Astris will allow Ariane 6 to place several payloads in an optimized way on ” different orbits during‘a single launch or d‘directly inject satellites into the‘target orbit or geostationary orbit “. Astris missions change the ” nature of Ariane 6 missions and move away from the legacy of Ariane 5 whose double launches are confined to the same orbit “. This additional stage will improve Ariane 6’s ability to perform flights with the fairing full and ” better serve missions that require escaping thewith very important values of the so-called infinite orbital ».
Operational capacities that will strengthen the attractiveness of Ariane 6
For telecommunications satellites, more commonly known as “Satcom”, the main commercial market for satellite launch, the use of Astris provides an advantage, “ in particular because it will allow these satellites to be sent directly into, and not on a geostationary as is the case with Ariane 5 “. As for Satcom at , they will be able to reach their orbit in ” only a few hours whereas today it can take several months to reach their final position “. This optional stage may also help increase performance for certain Ariane 6 missions. It will also facilitate missions to the or deep space, in ” reducing the complexity of spacecraft and the risks inherent in their injection into their operational orbit ».
The other advantage of this floor is that it allows you to achieve ” so-called opportunity missions and to respond to immediate launch needs, and to go quickly to post “. For example, ” meet a sudden market need, replace a broken Satcom “. Astris also has another interest in being useful to ” scientific missions or which need very high orbit precision “, Like the missions of” flexible space transportation, such as space logistics, in-orbit maintenance and specific exploration missions, for example ».
Another advantage, the ” injection error correction capacities are often very limited on board satellites because they require very sizing constraints for the platform in terms of fuel transport “. With Astris, which will be able to bring satellites to the last mile from their final orbital position, satellite operators will no longer have to worry about this problem.
It’s too late for the stars” placed between the upper stage and the payload or, between the Ariane dual launch system and the payload (one or more satellites) », Explains ArianeGroup. This will allow the satellite to ” reduce the amount of fuel required to inject it into orbit “. In other words, all the “transfer to orbit” part usually on board the satellite (tanks, fuel) will be entrusted to Astris, which will take care of this task. By outsourcing this function, “ we simplify de facto the design of the satellite, which offers greater availability for carrying payloads, instruments for example Ajoute Pier Domenica Resta.
This stage will be propelled by the re-ignitable Berta motor atstorable ( ). This engine, the development of which is already well advanced within the framework of the Future Launcher Preparatory Programme of ESA is now part of the Astris project which will be its first user; it is in the 5 to 10 kN thrust class. In L’ Astris, « it will be able to deliver a thrust of around 4 kN, while its design allows it to be qualified to deliver thrusts of 6 or even 7 kN “. This engine is also a candidate very well positioned to equip the future lunar missions.
ArianeGroup is committed to developing this floor within the very short deadlines set by ESA. Its first flight is scheduled for 2024, and the floor must absolutely be ready by that date. Indeed, for its first demonstration flight, Astris will launch the smallof ESA which is the European part of the ambitious mission from which aims to deflect a . For Astris, the launch of is a ” reference mission Which must demonstrate all the operational and economic interest of using this stage.