The German Aerospace Research Establishment (DLR) is modifying its rocket engine test stands to conduct tests on the Vinci engine in preparation for its service entry on the new Ariane 5 ESC-B launcher. The facilities at Lampolshausen, Germany, are also being used to develop new ignition parameters for the Aestus upper stage engine for the Ariane 5 following the launch vehicle's failure in July.

The DLR's two test stands - P4.1 and P4.2 - are used to test the upper stage engines of launchers and satellites as well as spacecraft engines before they enter service by recreating conditions found in space. The P4.1 test stand is being modified to test the Vinci cryogenic upper stage engine for the Ariane 5 ESC-B, which will be capable of placing dual payloads of up to 12t into orbit from 2005. The P4.1 features a vacuum test cell and is being equipped with an enlarged steam ejector system for Vinci tests late next year. P4.1 will be modified again to test the entire cryogenic upper stage.

Meanwhile, the DLR's P4.2 test stand is being used to test the ignition of the Aestus upper stage engine for the Ariane 5, paving the way for its return to service after it failed to place its payloads into the correct orbit on its last mission.

The failure was due to combustion instability during ignition. DLR has conducted more than 60 hot firing tests of the Aestus and a new "softer" ignition sequence has been developed, which is being validated this month, says Arianespace.

Source: Flight International