Groundbreaking Prometheus Engine Will Power ESA's Ariane 6 Launch Vehicle

ArianeGroup is developing a next-generation launcher engine 1 photo
Photo: ArianeGroup
As the European launch vehicle Ariane 6 is getting closer to its take-off date, ArianeGroup is continuing to work on the innovative Prometheus, an optimized and cost-effective rocket engine that could take European launchers to the next level.
Ariane 6 is one of Europe’s most ambitious space-related projects, somewhat similar to NASA’s Space Launch System. The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with hundreds of companies in various countries, to develop Ariane 6, with the project being led by ArianeGroup, formerly known as Airbus Safran Launchers.

At the same time, ArianeGroup is also developing a next-generation launcher engine, called Prometheus. This project was initiated in collaboration with the French space agency CNES, and was later covered by a contract with ESA, in 2017. The company recently announced that it was awarded a new €135 million ($164 million) contract from ESA, to complete the demonstration of the first 2 engine prototypes and to develop a new version of Prometheus.

This project’s objective is to create a rocket engine that is lighter than standard versions and more affordable, because it’s made with innovative technologies. Most of the engine’s components, up to 70%, including the combustion chamber, were manufactured using 3D printing. According to the manufacturer, this made the production costs for the first prototypes 10 times lower than those of the current Ariane 6 engine, the Vulcain 2.

And that’s not all. The new version will also be more powerful, with a thrust of 120 tons, instead of the first model’s 100 tons, and the thrust range will be controlled by a digital system. Prometheus will be the first European engine to have controlled combustion, which makes it capable of adapting to varying flight conditions. Plus, it will feature a Health Monitoring System that allows the engine to be diagnosed at any time.

The new ESA contract will also cover the development of a liquid hydrogen version of the engine, which could be used on an upgraded version of Ariane 6, starting from 2025. Until then, ArianeGroup will work on getting the Prometheus engine closer to the pre-industrialization phase.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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