Jean-Marie Luton, the director-general of the European Space Agency (ESA), said at Farnborough yesterday that a third Ariane 5 test flight will be necessary before the vehicle can be declared operational for commercial use by Arianespace.

The first Ariane 5 failed due to computer software errors on 4 June. Luton's problem is that he has not got the full budget for the third development flight, as only two were funded by ESA.

He will propose to ESA member states at the end of this month that the cost of the third test flight be shared with the Ariane 5 partner countries.

With space funding tight in most countries and the fact that the major Ariane 5 partner is France, his proposal will make the funding controversial. Other countries are already balking at the suggestion that they pay.



The second Ariane launch will not take place until after March 1997; the payload will be a test article and "... will not be a satellite", says Luton.

A communications satellite will likely fly the third test flight, with the potential customer being offered a bargain launch price.

The director-general is facing another task - how to reorganise the agency to save money and to make it more efficient.

Luton says that this will likely involve merging departments within the agency, including the integration of technical centres in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy under a single manager.

The task is difficult but "... the target is to get the best for Europe", Luton says.



Source: Flight Daily News