Hand in hand

A year on from its launch, the innovation-boosting acceleration platform ArianeWorks is flying high 03-04-2020 |  5 minutes

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One year ago, ArianeWorks was set up by ArianeGroup and French space agency CNES. We look back over its first 12 months and stargaze into its future.

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12 months of great teamwork

The watchwords of this novel partnership, dedicated to preparing the launchers of the future, have always been teamwork and rapidity, driven by a real quest for innovation. A main aim is the development of a low-cost reusable rocket first-stage demonstrator, called Themis.

It took the ArianeWorks team just a few months to sketch out the first design for this 30-metre high biomethane-fueled vehicle which will be powered by three new-generation Prometheus motors.

From the outset, ArianeWorks has attracted international talent through its doors and there are now five industry partners contributing ideas, cutting-edge technology and know-how to the Themis initiative: ONERA (France), ADF-LATESYS (France), APCO Technologies SA (Switzerland), RUAG (Switzerland), and SABCA (Belgium).

Numerous startups have also joined forces with ArianeWorks over the year.

There have been wireless communication technology experiments with Berlin startup R3Communication, the coalescence of the “Makers” community, delivering tangible results on the OpenSpaceMakers platform, and prototyping of a reusable rocket recovery system with myCTO, a young company based near Paris.

Eight days was all it took to put contracts in place and within three months, the prototype design emerged, focusing on a small demonstrator vehicle, developed by Planète Sciences and Polyvionics, with contributions from the Cachan Technology Institute and Innovlab.

ArianeWorks and myCTO showcased their fruitful collaboration at several industry events during the year, highlighting the value of the diversity and resources of the Ariane ecosystem.

By the end of 2019, the drive and efforts of the ArianeWorks partners resulted in a milestone achievement: the buy-in of the European Space Agency (ESA) and its Member States into the Themis project, formalized by an initial budget of €35 million attributed at ESA’s Ministerial Conference in Seville.

Expanding horizons

As we celebrate this first birthday, there is no slow-down in sight for ArianeWorks: it is taking its initial steps with ESA and the first parts are being manufactured for fueling tests in 2020. At the same time, the team is being reshaped to meet the new challenge, bringing on board new talents and partnerships.

On the technical front, a full-size tank will be installed at the site in Vernon (France) to validate interfaces, repeat operations and test concepts. In a nod to ArianeGroup’s origins, the tests will be carried out at the historic PF20 site, where Ariane 1 was tested.

Robotic connection and disconnection operations in partnership with Shark Robotics, measurement techniques using smart paint, fiber-optic networks to gauge damage to the launcher – these are all part of the busy and exciting programme awaiting ArianeWorks!

After only one year, there is no shortage of innovative ways to accelerate the creation of the launchers of the future. ArianeWorks is truly flying and its story has only just begun!