The Ariane 6 has three engines-the Vinci (upper stage), the Vulcain 2.1 (core stage), and the P120C solid rocket motor (boosters). These three engines have now completed a rather extensive set of tests. Standing at 63m tall with a weight of 900 tonnes, the four-booster version of the Ariane 6 will have a liftoff power that's comparable to 12 Airbus A380 engines.
Ariane 6: Its engines
A set of two or four of these will be the boosters and will comprise the Ariane 6's initial stage. The "C" in the name stands for "common" since this engine will be utilized on both the Ariane 6 and other launcher systems being developed by the ESA. Europropulsion, a company co-owned by ArianeGroup and Avio, developed the P120C.
Rocket motors have solid fuel and they burn until their fuel is fully depleted. This simple concept of operation makes rocket motors cost-efficient. Every P120C motor gives out roughly 4500 kN of thrust.
A P120C engine has a 25 cm thick casing that is made from a carbon composite material. The engine has a diameter of 3.4 m, weighs 11 tonnes, and is 13.5 m long. The advanced P120C nozzle was developed in France by ArianeGroup while the igniter was manufactured by Nammo in Norway.
The Vulcain 2.1 runs on liquid oxygen-hydrogen. During Ariane 6's first eight minutes of flight, the Vulcain 2.1 will provide 1371 kN of thrust. Although this engine has the same weight of an Airbus A318 jet engine, it gives out more than 10 times the power.
This engine has a 3D-printed gas generator. It also comes with a redesigned, simplified nozzle and a combustion chamber. The latter can be ignited from the ground instead of through pyrotechnic devices inside the motor. This approach further reduces cost and weight of the entire engine.
This engine forms the upper stage of Ariane 6. Fueled by liquid oxygen-hydrogen, it can be reignited for up to five times. This makes the Ariane 6 have an increased operational flexibility. It also ensures that the engine can safely deorbit once the mission reaches its end phase.
Vinci passed its qualifying tests last October 2018. It was tested for more than 140 times and was even reignited multiple times in an environment simulating the vacuum of space. The results show it is capable of more than 14 hours of operation.
Ariane 6's upper stage will integrate with the Vinci engine in Bremen, Germany at ArianeGroup facilities. Once completed, it will then be brought to Lampoldshausen at the DLR German Aerospace Center. There, it will undergo a simulated launch in the new P5.2 facility.
ESA Director of Space Transportation, Daniel Neuenschwander says, "ESA with European industry have created three new engines to grow Europe's independent access to space. We have increased performance, expanded our flexibility and become even more competitive."
"With all engine qualifications tests completed, we will now focus on remaining final phase activities for Ariane 6 and Vega-C maiden flights," he further continues.