Tag Archives: Airbus

European commission approves Airbus-Safran buy of Arianespace

The competition heats up: The bureaucrats in the European Union have given their approval to the purchase by Airbus-Safran Launchers of Arianespace, thereby clearing the way for the privatization of that ESA entity and the construction, under Airbus-Safran control, of Ariane 6.

Following an in-depth review, the European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Arianespace by Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), a joint venture between Airbus and Safran. This approval is subject to conditions. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “A well-functioning satellite and launcher industry is important to guarantee that European companies and institutions can gain access to space at competitive terms. The commitments offered by ASL ensure that after its takeover of Arianespace, all players in the industry will continue to have incentives to innovate.”

The Commission had concerns that the transaction would give rise to flows of sensitive information between Airbus and Arianespace to the detriment of competing satellite manufacturers and launch service providers. The Commission’s approval is conditional on the implementation of the commitments offered by the companies to address these concerns.

I must say that, in reading this story, I understood far better why the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Though this particular deal is certainly different and involves many important government issues, if every private business deal is subject to the numbing concerns of this commission, I myself would run screaming from them as fast as I could.

Airbus begins assembly Orion service module

My heart be still! Airbus has announced that it is beginning assembly of the first Orion capsule service module.

Considering the cost to build about three Orion flight capsules, about $25 billion, one would think that would be enough to also build the capsule’s service module, especially since this is not cutting edge technology, having already been done with Apollo.

Not however when you are dealing with pork-laden government operations, where the customer, the taxpayer, is a good mark that you can suck for as much money as possible without any bad consequences. Make it sound cool and they will buy it, hook, line, and sinker!

Airbus initiates smallsat launcher project

The competition heats up: Airbus has begun a project to develop a smallsat commercial launch rocket, competitive with Rocket Lab’s Electron and Virgin Galactic’s LaunchOne, aimed at the cubesat and nanosat satellite market.

The source for the story was unnamed, and also gave few details, so it is hard to know how real this is. What I gather however is that we might be seeing the beginnings of a long term split in the launch market, with one set of big rockets designed to launch human-related payloads, including humans, and a second set of small rockets focused on launching unmanned satellites.

Airbus Safran joint rocket venture moving forward

The competition heats up: According to the head of Safran, their joint venture with Airbus to build Europe’s next rocket, Ariane 6, is on schedule to begin full operations by July 1.

He said in a press teleconference that the issues both with the French tax authorities and with the European Union about the merger are being resolved.

Turning planes into trucks

The competition heats up: Airbus has patented a concept for having the cargo/passenger section of an airplane modular and removable.

Instead of a single hull, aeroplanes would essentially be built with a hole in their fuselage between the nose cone and the tail section, into which modular compartments could be fitted and removed. The compartments, which could take on the purpose of a passenger, luxury passenger or freight unit, would be transferred between the aircraft and airport via a docking module, which according to Airbus would (ideally) be integrated into airport terminal buildings.

For passenger planes this idea really doesn’t work. However, for cargo it is brilliant. Like trucks, it allows cargo to be loaded without using the expensive flight infrastructure.

Airbus patents design for a supersonic ramjet airplane

The competition heats up: Two Airbus engineers have gotten a patent for a supersonic jet that would use suborbital space engineering, including hydrogen-oxygen engines as well as a ramjet, to fly at 20 to 30 miles elevation.

On a typical flight, it would take off like a conventional plane using ordinary turbojet engines, but once in the air, an open door in the stern of the plane reveals a rocket motor. When this fires, it sends the aircraft into a near vertical trajectory, accelerating it to supersonic speeds.

As the airplane approaches Mach one, the turbojets shut down and retract into the fuselage. On completion of the acceleration phase the plane is now flying at anywhere from Mach 4 to Mach 4.5 at an altitude of 30,000 to 35,000 m (100,000 to 150,000 ft). The rocket motor shuts down and is again concealed as the aft door slides shut to reduce drag. A ramjet now kicks in and the aircraft cruises along its flight path and can cover a range of 9,000 km (5,600 mi) in three hours – the equivalent of Tokyo to Los Angeles or Paris to San Francisco. Meanwhile, the wing fuselage design dissipates the sonic shock wave over 110 to 175 km (68 to 109 mi) and angles it at 11 to 15 degrees so it doesn’t reach the ground. At the end of the journey, split flaps reduce speed and the turbojets take over for approach and landing.

As the article notes, it is unlikely this jet will ever be built, as patented. The patent however illustrates the growing interest by commercial operators of these radical aerospace designs. While this specific design might never fly, many aspects of it are going to start appearing in flying ships in the next few decades.

OneWeb awards major launch contracts

The competition heats up: OneWeb today announced it had raised a half billion dollars in investment capital, and has also awarded two major launch contracts, one to the Arianespace/Russian Soyuz partnership and the other to Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne.

The Soyuz gets 21 launches while LauncherOne gets 39. For Virgin Galactic this contract might save the company, as their effort to fly tourists on SpaceShipOne has badly stalled. The effort to build LauncherOne, however, seems to be gaining steam.

Airbus unveils its first stage re-useability concept

The competition heats up: Airbus unveiled today its prototype design to recover and reuse the engines and avionics of its Ariane rockets.

Herve Gilibert, technical director for Airbus’ Space Systems division, said the Adeline propulsion unit — engine and avionics — is where lies most of the value of the first stage. The Airbus team concluded that SpaceX’s design of returning the full stage to Earth could be simplified by separating the propulsion bay from the rest of the stage, protecting the motor on reentry and, using the winglets and turbofans, return horizontally to a conventional air strip. “We are using an aerodynamic shield so that the motor is not subjected to such high stress on reentry,” Gilibert said. “We need very little fuel for the turbofans and the performance penalty we pay for the Ariane 6 launcher is far less than the 30 percent or more performance penalty that SpaceX pays for the reusable Falcon 9 first stage.

Gee, for decades Arianespace and Boeing and Lockheed Martin and everyone else in the launch industry insisted it made no economic sense to try to recover and reuse the first stage of their rockets. Then SpaceX comes along and makes an effort to do so, without as yet even coming close, and suddenly everyone agrees it is economically essential to do it as well.

Isn’t competition wonderful?

Airbus attacked by French lawmaker for talking to SpaceX

The competition heats up: A French lawmaker lashed out at Airbus for daring to consider SpaceX as a possible launch option for a European communications satellite.

The senator, Alain Gournac, who is a veteran member of the French Parliamentary Space Group, said he had written French Economy and Industry Minister Emmanuel Macron to protest Airbus’ negotiations with Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. for a late 2016 launch instead of contracting for a launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket. “The negotiations are all the more unacceptable given that, at the insistence of France, Europe has decided to adopt a policy of ‘European preference’ for its government launches,” Gournac said. “This is called playing against your team, and it smacks of a provocation. It’s an incredible situation that might lead customers to think we no longer have faith in Ariane 5 — and tomorrow, Ariane 6.”

Heh. SpaceX really is shaking up the launch industry, ain’t it?

A streamlined Arianespace to build Ariane 6?

The competition heats up: The merged Airbus/Safran rocket division has surprised the European Space Agency with a proposed new design for Ariane 6.

The Airbus-Safran proposal, if carried to its logical end, would mean a single company building Ariane vehicles, with fewer subcontractors and much less government oversight. It would likely mean the end of the CNES launcher division as industry takes more control of Ariane design and operations.

In other words, the contractors who build the rockets for ESA want more power over that construction. They want less government oversight, and more ownership of the rocket they build.

Sounds like what’s happening in the U.S., doesn’t it? Giving ownership to the rocket builders means they not only have more flexibility and thus can be more efficient, it makes it easier for them to innovate in both construction and sales.

The competition heats up: European aerospace companies Airbus and Safran have signed an agreement to merge their rocket divisions.

The competition heats up: European aerospace companies Airbus and Safran have signed an agreement to merge their rocket divisions.

The companies said the joint-venture would combine Airbus Group’s launch systems with Safran’s propulsion systems, but hinted at broader integration of public and private activities in an effort to duplicate the success of planemaker Airbus. Europe’s Ariane 5 space launcher dominates the market for large commercial satellites but faces growing concerns over its future due to competition from Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), run by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.

To respond to the threat, Airbus and Safran aim to lead a drive towards an integrated European launch firm drawing on the lessons of Airbus’s planemaking unit, which was spurred into turning itself from being a consortium into a single company by the merger of transatlantic rivals Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in 1997. [emphasis mine]

The article, like practically every other report about Europe’s space effort in the past two years, singles out the competitive threat being made to their market share by SpaceX. Increasingly, the price reductions being offered by Musk’s company combined with its repeated success in launching payloads into orbit is forcing Europe to cut its own costs and become more efficent, something they have not bothered to do in decades. As result access to space is about to get signigicantly cheaper.

Some additional details about Airbus’s spaceplane, its recent successful drop tests, and the company’s future plans.

Some additional details about Airbus’s spaceplane, its recent successful drop tests, and the company’s future plans.

The design has similar to XCOR’s Lynx. It would take off and land from a runway and do a suborbital flight without the need of a mother ship.

Airbus has begun drop tests of its own suborbital spaceplane.

The competition heats up: Airbus has begun drop tests of a scale-model version of its own suborbital spaceplane.

The video at the link is very disappointing, as it cuts off almost immediately after the spaceplane is released, showing nothing of what happened and how it landed. Nonetheless, that Airbus is testing such technology means that they are considering competing with other suborbital companies like Virgin Galactic and XCOR.

More details here, but they are scanty as well.

The cracks that have been found on the wings of the new Airbus A380 jumbo jet have now been traced to a company in the United Kingdom.

The cracks that have been found on the wings of the new Airbus A380 jumbo jet have now been traced to work done by a company in the United Kingdom.

A senior industry expert told The Times: ‘The issue is around the type of aluminum being used and the fitting which, as a result of the assembly, creates the crack’, with a source close to the problem adding, ‘It is a design and process engineering failure’.