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Air Liquide-Astrium joint venture

esa spatial

Astrium and Air Liquide will create a new company to develop the future Cryogenic Upper Stage Tank for the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution.

Bremen, 28 October 2010 - Astrium, prime contractor for the development of Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (ME), a European Space Agency programme, and Air Liquide, a specialist in cryogenics for space applications, have agreed to establish a new joint venture, which will, in the future, lead the development and the production of cryogenic tanks for Ariane 5 ME upperstage. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has already been signed by the two companies. The construction of a purpose-built facility close to Astrium's Bremen site is set to begin in 2011. The joint venture should generate some 40 new jobs.

Ariane 5 ME is a major ESA programme that will upgrade the current Ariane 5 launcher so it can cater for the market demand for increased launch capacity. The programme was decided at the Space Ministerial Conference in 2008. Germany has significantly increased its participation in the program with 35% of the development budget.

Astrium and Air Liquide, partners for more than 40 years on the Ariane programme, have decided that the best way to deal with this complex project is to pool their competencies and build on their existing Cryospace joint venture in Les Mureaux, France by opening a new site in Bremen, Germany. Cryospace in Les Mureaux, and Air Liquide Advanced Technologies division in Sassenage, France will continue to produce the fuel tanks for the current versions (ECA and ES) of the Ariane 5 launchers.

Astrium in Bremen is the European centre of excellence for the development and production of launcher upper stages. The new cryogenic Ariane 5 ME upper stage, fuelled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, will be capable of a much more versatile mission profile than the current versions of Ariane 5. It boasts enhanced capacity (12 rather than 10 metric tons of payload), and because of its re-ignition capability, it will be more able to place multiple satellites into orbit or send probes to other planets. By overcoming some major challenges, such as fuel management and the considerable mechanical and thermal demands on the fuel tank, the new upper stage enables the European Ariane launcher to offer the full spectrum of services from satellite launches to special missions.

The first launch of the Ariane 5 ME is scheduled for the end of 2016. 

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