Ariane 5 ME looks to increase payload by 20 percent to compete better against the Russian Proton and Spacex Falcon 9

Designers of Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket are crafting a defense against U.S. startup rocket builder Spacex.

The Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution vehicle, whose new upper stage is halfway completed and awaits final approval, in late 2014, of European governments.

Ariane 5 ME will increase the current Ariane 5 ECA’s payload-carrying power by about 20 percent, meaning it will carry two satellites weighing a combined 11,000 kilograms.

The upper position under the Ariane 5 ME fairing is occupied by a satellite weighing around 6,500 kilograms, which is what the current Proton vehicle carries solo into orbit on its commercial flights. Because most commercial satellite fleet operators tailor their satellites to be compatible with at least two launch vehicles, there is little incentive for rocket builders to get too far ahead of the competition in terms of satellite mass.

With the upper position in the Ariane 5 ME competing with Proton, marketed by International Launch Services of Reston, Va., it is up to the lower position to compete with Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX and the upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket scheduled to make its debut this year.

The upgraded Falcon 9 is capable of carrying a 4,500-kilogram satellite into geostationary transfer orbit.

One of the Falcon 9’s most potent arguments is that it is capable of carrying two all-electric-propulsion satellites at a time into geostationary transfer orbit. But according to the first customer of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems’ all-electric 702SP platform, Satmex of Mexico, it will take the Satmex satellite about eight months to reach its final orbital position and begin generating revenue.

Charmeau said Ariane 5 ME will use its re-ignitable upper stage to place an all-electric satellite into a higher orbit than what is offered by the Falcon 9, reducing the time to arrival by around two months

SOURCE – Space News

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