EADS and Finmeccanica to manage programme aimed at cutting satellite launch costs
A potentially reusable rocket capable of placing a 7,500kg (16,500lb) satellite into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) is the likely outcome of the European Space Agency's (ESA) future launcher preparatory programme (FLPP), says EADS.
EADS is one of two companies now forming the venture that will manage FLPP. The role of the rocket would be to launch satellites and supply payloads to the International Space Station. No final design would be agreed until at least 2007, when sufficient data is due to be collated for a decision. The joint venture to develop FLPP will be formed by October this year by EADS Space division and Italian state holding company Finmeccanica.
EADS Space says: "No one can say if [the launcher] will be reusable or partially reusable or expendable. And for the time being, for the next 20 years, it will be unmanned. If we man-rate it, it will be some time after 2020."
The FLPP programme was given €24 million ($29.5 million) for preliminary work by ESA's member states last year. One of its goals is to reduce the cost of launching satellites from €12,000 to €4,000 per kilogramme (Flight International, 30 July-5 August, 2002).
While potentially lower in cost, the FLPP rocket's capability would be similar to that of the Ariane 5 generic launcher, which was due for launch with its improved upper stage on 12 July.
Since 2001 the Ariane 5 has had the capability to put a dual payload with a combined mass of 7,300kg into GTO.
ROB COPPINGER / LONDON
Source: Flight International