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The European Commission has selected ArianeGroup to take part in the advancement of two major projects focused on the reusability of rockets in space, part of wider efforts to make space exploration more competitive and eco-friendly. 

ArianeGroup will help lead on two separate projects – SALTO and ENLIGHTEN. The company is at the forefront of civil and defense space launcher systems and is a leading contractor behind the Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launch vehicles. 

SALTO is a project to facilitate the first flight tests of the Themis reusable stage demonstrator in Kiruna, Sweden. The ENLIGHTEN project will speed up the development and introduction of reusable engine technologies. 

With both projects having been born out of a call by Horizon Europe to help accelerate space innovation, ArianeGroup will lead a group of industry experts, research institutes, and start-ups, to help make space travel more sustainable. 

Key steps to sustainable space exploration

SALTO will test vertical landing by a reusable launcher stage prototype within the next two years, with a budget of 39 million euros. It aims in particular to do key testing on the complex landing phase, which is essential for launcher recovery.

The target vehicle, comprising technology developed by ArianeGroup and its partners, will pave the way for even more ambitious demonstrations to reproduce the high-energy trajectory representative of an actual operational launch. ArianeGroup is coordinating work on SALTO with a consortium of 26 partners from 12 different countries.

The new propulsion systems will rely on reusable, high-power engines using bio-methane or green hydrogen. 

ENLIGHTEN is designed to develop and test advanced production and deployment technologies for reusable rocket engines, with the project having a budget of 17.4 million euros. The new propulsion systems will rely on reusable, high-power engines using bio-methane or green hydrogen. 

The goal will notably be to continue with the development of key technologies for rocket engines, such as additive manufacturing and artificial intelligence, which are essential for monitoring and maintenance applications for reusable engines. Including ArianeGroup, the ENLIGHTEN consortium comprises 18 partners from eight countries.

Mobilizing collective expertise

“This European Commission initiative will enable us to accelerate the development of the first reusable and eco-friendly launchers in Europe, by mobilizing all the expertise on our continent and by combining the know-how of the major groups, research institutes, and innovative start-ups,” said André-Hubert Roussel, ArianeGroup CEO. 

“After the unfailing support of the European Space Agency for the Prometheus reusable engine demonstrator and Themis reusable stage demonstrator, this further support from the European Commission – via the financing of ambitious projects – is excellent news for European sovereign access to space.”

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