NGL Prime awarded future launcher contracts

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The Astrium, Finmeccanica joint venture NGL Prime has finally received two contracts from the European Space Agency (ESA) for ESA's Future Launcher Preparatory Programme (FLPP) two years after the company's conception.

The two FLPP contracts, with a combined worth of EUR20.5 million ($27.5 millon), cover activities during the programme's step one of its second period, for the definition of launcher system concepts and development of ESA's planned re-entry demonstrator, the Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV).

The joint venture is owned 70% by Astrium and 30% by Finmeccanica, it will act as a prime contractor and manage the contracts' work share between its 43 industrial teams and research institutions across 11 European countries.

"The launcher studies will prepare key technical and programmatic data for the ESA ministerial conference in 2008. They will look at the different options that Europe could adopt in the development of a next generation launcher intended to be in service in 2020 or 2025. In parallel, the [IXV] will demonstrate Europe's advanced re-entry technologies. We are now on track for a flight in 2010," says NGL Prime chief executive and former head of reusable systems at EADS Astriums' space transportation division, Axel Roenneke.

Originally conceived in 2005 NGl Prime's head office was set up in Turin along with a joint engine team formed of engineers from Safran, Avio and Astrium's propulsion department.

However difficult negotiations saw its legal creation delayed to 15 March 2006 and contract award by ESA only now.

The ESA study that is expected to persuade its member state ministers in 2008 whether to choose a reusable system is Tomorrow's Bird, which is investigating telecommunication satellites in the 2015-20 timeframe. This is the payload the FLPP vehicle will have to launch.