Ariane NEXT Unfunded Vision

A 2020 research paper provides an overview of the current status of the Ariane NEXT (20282030 reusable) launch system definition and economic analysis, and development status.

Anyone can propose a reusable rocket concept that might technically work. However, figuring out how to eventually make it affordable is very different. SpaceX has sucked all of the commercial launch revenue oxygen out of the world.

Ariane NEXT would halve the costs of European launchers in 2030s. The proposed Ariane NEXT is not funded. It is a Launch system design with a standardized architecture and evaluating LOx-LCH4. It has reusability as an option.

Ariane Next’s 4 mains demonstrators programs: Callisto, Prometheus, Themis, Icarus.

In 2021, the European Space Agency (ESA) hired three rocket companies to spend four months evaluating what Europe’s launch-service landscape will look like between 2030 and 2050. Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 prime contractor ArianeGroup, Vega medium-lift launcher prime Avio SpA, small-launcher startup Rocket Factory Augsburg. ESA is having trouble funding Ariane 6 in 2021-2023.

In October 2020, ESA formally requested an additional €230 million in funding from the countries sponsoring the project to complete the development of the rocket and get the vehicle to its first test flight, which had slipped to the second quarter of 2022.

Ariane 6 is being developed in a public-private partnership with the ESA governments providing €2.815 billion and €400 million from private industry.

The ESA Council approved the Ariane 6 project on 3 November 2016, and the ESA Industrial Policy Committee released the required funds on 8 November 2016.

In January 2020, the European Investment Bank, in partnership with the EC, made a €100 million loan to Arianespace drawing from the Horizon 2020 and Investment Plan for Europe corporate investment programs. The 10-year loan’s repayment is tied to the financial success of the Ariane 6 project.

Europe can either choose to spend a lot of money to make their own reusable rocket or they can just use the SpaceX Super Heavy Starship and other SpaceX rockets. Europe can spend on new space stations and other space projects. It will likely cost €10 billion to €30 billion to make a fully reusable rocket initially like the Falcon 9 and then evolving to the Super Heavy Starship. However, it will be too expensive for them to compete with SpaceX for launches. SpaceX as the first mover has lower-cost launch so they can profitably launch Falcon 9 to pay for the fully reusable Super Heavy Starship development. Europe and China and other competitors will have to adopt the steel rocket and rapid development methods of SpaceX.

The Airbus 380 Jumbo jet program was started in 2000 after the 1989 introduction of the Boeing 747. They spent €9.5 billion and the first Airbust 380 was delivered in 2007.

SpaceX is a more aggressive company than Boeing. Rocket development that is not rapidly testing rocket flights every month and then every week will not be able to match the pace of SpaceX development.

SOURCES – Acta Astronautica – Ariane Next, a vision for the next generation of Ariane Launchers, Wikipedia
Written By Brian Wang,

59 thoughts on “Ariane NEXT Unfunded Vision”

  1. True, was commenting on why the EU bureaucracy's decision to keep funding an outdated development strategy is rational from their point of view.

  2. Here is an example of *not* launching (the "anything" is your requirement). I am channeling Bezos here: Have three paying rovers on the first Blue Moon lander, and one that gets fuel. Refuel the lander, and fill a cargo tank too. Supply filling station in orbit, bring down more fuel rovers, until you need more landers to handle the fuel. There is no launching of fuel for filling station from Earth in this plan. Contrast Musk.

  3. SpaceX already has plans for second and (I believe) even 3rd generation Starships. Plus, we can derive from Falcon 9 that they will keep optimizing and fine tuning things. Falcon 9 had five iterations before they froze the design to move on to Starship.

  4. I think that if Starship is indeed enough to accomplish the mission of colonising Mars, SpaceX will very well rest on their laurels in that regard. They might later on evaluate the possibility of building an even larger Starship V2 if it helps the colonisation plan substantially. If the bottleneck isn't launch volume later on, Spaceship development might well stagnate.

    What many people (I'm not saying you, of course) fail to understand about SpaceX is that they're not in it for the market; they're in in for Mars, and everything else is secondary. Musk is, as Dan puts not incorrectly, on his "mystical Mars stupidity." And until people take that "stupidity" seriously, they will be continually blindsided by the decisions Musk takes as owner of SpaceX.

  5. ? Are we supposed to will O'Neill into existence without launching anything? How can "not launching" be the key to anything?

    Musk knows that today, the only way a manufactured product will appear in orbit is by being launched. Praying to YHWH that a fuel factory magically appears in Lunar L2, ready to be remote-controlled to go somewhere beyond the Snow Line to fetch an icy body to bring back and turn into H2 is always possible, but I expect that He will require us to expend a little bit more effort than that.

    Of course, other enterpreneurs could (and some are) getting a head start planning jump-starting spaceborne industry, but they will be reliant on launch services like Musk's or Beck's (or Bruno's) to get anything but the raw materials in place.

  6. Hindsight is making SpaceX look really good, but the decisions made for Ariane 6 were understandable at the time. But the decisions made were just one path of many available then. The fact that ESA didn't go whole hog into Callisto/Prometheus/Themis the moment SpaceX landed their first booster was a strategic mistake though. Whether that would have allowed cancelling Ariane 6 is up for debate though.

    But chasing SpaceX with a european F9 clone means they are late to the party. China is clearly using the existence proof of F9 to commit to making a copy fast, and throwing lots of money to make it happen Once Starship/SuperHeavy debut, the chinese will clearly follow with a clone as well and probably drop all F9 clone work. ESA copying F9 after Starship succeeds is a bad move though, from a pure cost perspective.

  7. Agree with a lot of this, but no need to bring Trump into the conversation. Doesn't encourage lucid thinking from any side.

  8. That "head start" is illusory, anyone that turns up at the table with anything reliable and competitive will have a seat at that table.

  9. "Bezos has scored over 10 landings, so yes to "Do you perhaps think Bezos can score 11 landings out of 10 flights? "" Does not state whether the landings were orbital or not. Your question is not a trick, it is irrelevant.

  10. Actually, as I was listing advantages, I wanted to include both not knowing about as well as not understanding. To include the most possible. Whether Musk *knows about* O'Neill, sort of like *knowing where* a book is, or not is unimportant. Whether he *understands* O'Neill is vital. That is easy to test, just read what Musk sez.

  11. How many landings has Bezos scored during orbital flights?

    Oh, wait, that's a trick question, he'd have to reach orbit first.

  12. You really need to get over the idea that Musk doesn't know about O'Neill's works. People can disagree out of things other than ignorance.

  13. Agreed. Chemical is largely unavoidable for taking off from and landing on large bodies like planets or major moons, but the limited ISP really makes it marginal for other purposes.

    Really, it's marginal for all purposes, it's just that nothing else besides nuclear thermal has the thrust to weight to be usable at all for those purposes.

    For long, low thrust applications, like deep space probes, I favor fission fragment rockets, especially of the dusty plasma sort. But I've seen a proposal to integrate ionic salt FEEP engines directly with thin film solar panels that looks very attractive for interplanetary travel within the inner solar system. You'd use it kind of like a solar sail, except that it would have much, much higher thrust, but limited (Though high!) delta V before the propellant ran out.

  14. If they can cooperate with Russia and launch their own Soyuzes, they should be able to do the same with SpaceX vehicles.
    Better to develop some interplanetary vehicles with high isp drives. Chemical for interplanetary transfer is clearly not the future.

  15. Just as the US could not depend on Russia, Europe should not depend on the US. They are in good terms now. But you never know about the future. SpaceX is private, but it's the kind of sector that IS strategic and the US government WILL ACT if it sees dangers to it's interests, specially if another isolationist anti-everybody else like Trump gets elected again.

    If Europe does not develops it's own tech, at the US whim, Europe can simply be blocked from access to space.

    "that will never happen".

    Never say never.

  16. Naturally, you would have the factories in Space, just get the water/volatiles/everything from the Moon, or asteroid, as desired.

    I may be anticipating, but seem to remember Bezos saying that one of the first four rovers on the first lander will be to attempt to refuel the lander. This will mark the beginning of an *exponential like* growth pattern of using resources that are not (Earth) launched, in Space. That is where we could have been when first Mars rovers were possible, decades ago. Rockets' size don't matter, it is what you do with them. The best part is no part at all. ISMRU.

  17. Of course Musk is planning on launching everything. There aren't any fuel factories on the Moon yet, and Musk is in the rocket business, not the fuel factory business.

    You can bet that, once there is any kind of industry on the Moon capable of manufacturing fuel, Musk will go with the lowest bidder at the location he needs the fuel.

    So, there's a business opportunity here, if you think lunar sourced fuel will be cheaper.

    Like I said, engineering resources are a limiting factor here. Every engineer he has designing lunar fuel factories isn't improving his current rockets, and he doesn't yet have the resources to do both at the ideal rate at the same time. It's not like he can order a lunar fuel factory from McMaster for delivery next week. They don't exist yet.

  18. Of course! Musk is planning to launch the O and the C and even the H! That is the problem. O'Neill works *sufficiently* if only the O of the moon is considered. The rest is gravy. I am not clear on the accepted use of "fuel, refilling, refueling", etc, but clearly the O in the lunar water is the key. Both easier to get than from rego and the H and C as a bonus.

    Now, on the more specific question of H v C as the *space* fuel, you may certainly be right that C from Moon is better than troublesome H. But that is your plan, not Musk's. Sell it!!! It would be for a large project, fuel. Presence of C on Moon seems almost unknown. I say bring the rego to Gateway and use it all.

  19. I know we've already discussed this, but if you were running a stochastic CH4/O2 mix, (SpaceX runs fuel rich to avoid the engine bell combusting.) you're running, CH4 + (3x)O2. That's 12 for the carbon, and 4 + 16*6=100 for everything you could get on the Moon. Only 11% of the fuel mass is carbon.

    Methane works fine as a fuel between Earth and the Moon, you just bring along some charcoal to manufacture the methane, most of the mass is lunar oxygen, and a bit of lunar hydrogen.

  20. Indeed! And many of these things are to be *instead of* more rockets, a concept Musk does not quite get, even tho he sez the best plan is the one that eliminates the part altogether.

  21. Bezos already has spent his dime on these things, also not irrational, already has the H lunar landing engine tested (Musk needs to develop his), the second stage H engines flown multiple times, crewed July 20 planned. So he will reap the marginal benefits from here on out. There will be H in Space, for many uses. A separate system for C? Just for Musk? C fuel cells are possible, but likely? Even he thinks 10 fuel launches per trip is better than that. You have made your point that H is difficult to deal with. You have lost the overall argument against H. It has long been a done deal. As more is done, it will get better by already vast experience.

  22. Remember, the fuel will come from lunar water. Unless you are ignorant enuf to think of launching fuel from Earth! Which brings up the question, will partially refilling the orbiting second stage with cheap lunar fuel make the return to Earth trivial and cheap?

  23. An advantage to not knowing about O'Neill is thinking you need more than you actually do, and thus building, on your dime, a better rocket. I won't do that *instead* of O'Neill, as I know we should avoid launch by starting ISMRU decades ago, but it is his dime!

  24. Musk will leave Space to Bezos, as Musk goes on his mystical Mars stupidity. Launch direct to Mars, there is nothing to do in Space, he believes. Is the surface of a planet, such as Mars or Earth, the right place for an expanding tech civ? Musk does not even see economic return from Mars, just an expense to feel good that someone else may not die if we fail to understand O'Neill. If we do understand O'Neill, as Bezos does, Mars is not an issue, except for science.

  25. Conservation of engineering resources: CH4 is almost ideal for a first stage, in terms of performance, density, and price. If you're going to be pouring a lot of engineering resources into getting really good at methane engines, why not use them on the second stage? That way you don't need a parallel design team for hydrogen engines, tankage, you avoid the ground infrastructure for two sets of propellants.

    And H2/O2 engines have some serious drawbacks. Hydrogen is a really deep cryogenic with very low density, meaning the tanks have got to be huge and fancy. And cryocooling hydrogen in space for long term storage is NOT going to be easy.

    So it's not irrational for Musk to use methane for both stages. Separately optimizing the two stages sounds like a good idea on paper, until you realize it doubles your engineering and infrastructure requirements for only marginal gain.

  26. I love Musk rockets, except C second stage, like H better than batteries, but not much real difference, except to Musk. It is Musk's apparent total ignorance of Space, as presented by O'Neill and Globus for example, that I pity.

  27. Not a bad idea, Skylon would make a good bottom end for a rotovator system, and halving the delta V requirement would seriously relax design constraints.

    The point is, concentrate on something other than rockets, if you want to beat SpaceX.

  28. Actually, New Glenn is ready now, but they lost the first customer. No test is scheduled, just the first flight. Have you seen the launch pad and buildings? Musk's stuff looks like backyard mechanic. Landing is ready for Moon, uses 4 systems, visual, radar, lidar and inertial, Musk uses GPS on both rocket and ship, they don't even communicate. Bezos has scored over 10 landings, so yes to "Do you perhaps think Bezos can score 11 landings out of 10 flights? " Is the surface of a planet, such as Earth or Mars, the right place fro an expanding technological civilization? Now, about that fanboy stuff. I read O'Neill in 1977. No longer a boy. Have you? Or are you just another tired old Mars guy, ignorant as ever?

  29. Oh, they've been doing it on the straight searches, too, for some time. I'm not sure they do it as a general thing, the way they do on Youtube, but on a targeted basis, certainly. I've encountered politically sensitive searches where I've literally had unique quotes from a news article, and Google could not find it. DuckDuckGo found it on the first try.

    Whistleblowers have revealed that they have an extensive system of white and black lists modifying their raw search algorithm. They also hand modify auto-complete suggestions for sensitive topics.

    DuckDuckGo, by the way, is mostly a privacy front end on Bing and other search engines, that anonymizes your searches so they can't be tracked. Though I understand they're increasing their own native search capabilities, a smart move since those other search engines could cut them off at any time.

  30. I think that Europe should focus on Reaction Engines Limited and Skylon instead. It is a lot more ambitious than even what Musk is currently working on. It might still be too late, but at least it has a chance to do something different and maybe better.

  31. You typically see the market leader lose its dominance when it becomes fat and happy, and stops running flat out, the way SpaceX is under Musk. That WILL happen to SpaceX at some point, probably once Musk retires. But so long as SpaceX is running like a hare on meth, the tortoise is NOT winning this race.

    Also, ground to orbit rockets are a transitional technology. They're not going to be a permanent thing.

    They're going to be supplanted by other routes to orbit once the traffic gets high enough to justify it. 50 years from now, you think people will still be going to space on huge fireworks? Nah. They'll be taking an elevator in a dynamic structure like an orbital ring. Running on electricity, not burning chemical fuels.

    Rockets aren't the best way to get to orbit, they're just the minimum infrastructure way to orbit. Wagon trains got supplanted by trains, rockets will be replaced by something else.

    I think SpaceX is likely to maintain its present dominance of launch to orbit, until that happens, barring Musk loosing control, or a 'woke' government deciding to kill the goose laying those golden eggs. Your best bet to supplant SpaceX isn't to build a better Conestoga wagon, it's to get trains working.

  32. Bezos has yet to fly anything to orbit. Nor is anything ready to fly in the near future. Only in fuzzy future scenarios, subject to moving deadlines.
    Pathetic by comparison to Musk.

    Also – Bezos' landing tech, untested with orbital flight, is better than Musk's?
    Musk's tech lands every rocket. Do you perhaps think Bezos can score 11 landings out of 10 flights?
    Your O'Neill fanboyism clouds your judgement.

  33. There is a good argument that a better search engine than Google is both feasible and very lucrative.
    Remember, you don't have to be better than 2001 Google, you only have to be clearly better than 2021 Google, which is nowhere near as good.

    • Google has compromised their displayed results to promote paying sites
    • Google has begun warping their search results to promote their brand of politics. Not on their straight search yet (as far as I know) but certainly on youtube where entering the exact title and poster of a "politically incorrect" video will bring up approved videos with vaguely similar keywords.
    • Many, many sites have used search engine optimisation to get a score that is much higher than it "should" be. These tend to be commercial sites trying to sell stuff and/or scam you.

    You could probably get a functionally far superior search engine if you just did the google search with the added terms -pintrest -CNN -ebay etc.

  34. I think at least part of the Musk fanboism is a counter reaction to the Musk hate that you also encounter.

    He has made electric cars a real part of the market: THAT BASTARD.

    He is giving us access to the rest of the solar system: IT IS ONLY BECAUSE HE'S WHITE AND MALE


    (I suspect that Musk hate is at least partly financed by the entrenched interests that he challenges. But there are always people who want to tear down anyone who looks successful.)

  35. Was anyone in 1920 going to beat Ford at the automobile game? After all they were so far ahead…
    Could anyone beat Edison Electric in 1890? They were so far ahead and vertically integrated.
    Could anyone overtake the British East India company in 1850? They totally dominated trade to Asia.

    There is no history of a company being able to sustain market dominance. They will mess up somewhere and/or a competitor will see an opportunity they miss.

  36. There are several mistakes in that two-sentence paragraph. You are correct that the 747 was not introduced in 1989, but 1969 (or at least sometime before 1971, when I first flew on one). The introductory section of the wikipedia article that link points to says that Airbus started thinking about how to respond to the 747 in 1988 and announced they were thinking about it in 1990. Maybe there was some event that was part of that process that happened in 1989 that Brian intended to refer to, but mangled the sentence.

    The other error is that although the initial budget for the A380 was €9.5 billion, that initial section of the wikipedia article says that actual development cost was €18 billion, and that total investment by Airbus in the A380 was $25 billion.

  37. I am a Musk true believer, but I agree. Europe should develop their own tech, even if it is not cost competitive.

    America practically gave away 40 years of R&D to East Asian tech companies, outsourcing most of our electronics, computer component, and telephony manufacturing to nations that are not our friends.

    America needs to be able to manufacture all these things just like Europe needs to be able to manufacture all these things. World alliances and manufacturing chains can be disrupted due to unforeseen events (political upheaval, cataclysmic earthquakes, tsunamis, pandemics, etc.) in a heartbeat. Best to be safe rather than sorry…

  38. Another company might do that, but another company would have just built a larger Falcon rocket. I don't see SpaceX resting on their laurels.

  39. The EU isn't that foolish. They learned the consequences of not having their own independent capability in the early days, American protectionism forbade them from commercial operations of satellites launched by American rockets.

    I still dont get this widespread and irrational obsession with dumping on anyone/thing who dares to launch a rocket or makes an electric car and isn't named Musk. People are acting like Musk is their secret boyfriend and he needs their protection or his feelings will be hurt.

  40. The thing about SpaceX is that once they have a rocketship capable of doing the Mars mission, they will likely stop innovating in that arena, and move on to the considerable technical challenge of setting up a self-sufficient otherworldly colony. That will give competitors (like BO, RocketLabs, Firefly, and even maybe Arianespace and Roscosmos) time to catch up enough that we might have reasonable alternatives to Starship. After all, by that logic, no one was likely to beat Roscosmos at the space launch game after 2011: they had already done all their research and were sitting on top of a very reliable and reasonably cheap Soyuz launcher.

    I'm as much a Musk fanboi as anybody else, really, but I do wish we can have more than one real alternative to pick in any industry.

  41. Well, I'm using DuckDuckGo, so I hope people try to build search engines to give people alternatives. I also use Whatsapp, which back in the day wasn't owned by Facebook, but that ship has unfortunately sailed.

  42. Sorta. More like everybody shouldn’t bother trying to build search engines like Google or Social Platforms like Facebook cuz it’s just throwing money away. Companies with deep pockets and lots of relevant skills tried it and failed. Once a strong competitor has scaled into a niche there usually isn’t any opportunity to repeat that unless you’re like China and just willing to throw a lot of money at it indefinitely for strategic and political reasons.

  43. Yes, everyone should stop innovating and build rockets because SpaceX built a reusable rocket. Just like everyone should stop making cars because Tesla built Electric cars already.

  44. A few things: NASA has developed nanotube macro fiber, by succeeding in hooking nanos together, for the proverbial 10x strength of current C structures. Bezos will prob have first CH4 engine booster to launch cargo, Vulcan, almost certainly first crewed launch with CH4, either Vulcan or New Glenn. New Glenn stuff in Fla clearly already built to handle New Armstrong. All Bezos stuff is crew rated from scratch, Musk has different way, hope he succeeds spectacularly. Bezos has skipped the current Musk kerosene rocket steps, making money a different way while going straight to the O'Neill plan. His landing tech is better than Musk's, the main thing for reusable, and even the heavy composite is 25 uses, not the 10 for steel. Now, if Musk suddenly sez "Forget Mars!" we will have a race!

  45. As I said years ago, one big decision Musk made for his plan based upon Mars as the goal (remember those days, when people talked about Mars?) was C instead of H for second stage. He may luck out with lunar C, but if others cannot beat out launching O2 and CH4 they must not have read O'Neill.

  46. The idea is that more will soon be coming to Earth than being launched, and much much more will just stay in orbit, being part of a space economy. Earth launch is a troubling thing, get over it fast! ISMRU.

  47. Bezos is trading engines for LEO launches on Vulcan, so they do the paperwork. As I have said, I hope Musk is sooooo good that Bezos throws in towel and buys Musk launches. We'll see. Clearly Ariane is toast here, for LEO launch.

  48. Agreed, Soon the big development need will be what comes after reaching the target in space or after landing,

    Habitable modules for space or the surface, life support systems, food production modules, all kinds of robots, surface vehicles, excavators, ore processing machines…

    The list of things that are needed and aren't rockets is long.

  49. Europe can and should abandon Ariane development and move their engineers into R&D for advanced interplanetary shuttles, rotating space stations, solar power satellites, space mining etc and on and on. Stop throwing money away and use it to finance companies that are willing to hire and retrain the best engineers that previously worked on Ariane. If the big Aerospace companies go bankrupt after losing the pork projects then so be it. Ad Astra!

  50. Nobody's likely to beat SpaceX at the reusable 2 stage rocket game. They have too much of a head start, and are running flat out. 

    If you want to beat SpaceX, your best bet is to do something different. SpaceX is lowering the price of access to space, which is increasing traffic, and they will eventually increase it so much that different approaches to reaching space, that are more infrastructure intensive, but cheaper per kg, will make economic sense.

    Leapfrog SpaceX, and concentrate on rotovators, launch loops, orbital fountains, really long ground based mass drivers. Of these, rotovators are probably the lowest hanging fruit.

  51. It's not about competing with SpaceX, it's about funding the bureaucratic 'public' half of the public/private venture.

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