The end of the 2023 Paris Air Show coincided with the first firing campaign for the Prometheus engine mounted on the Themis reusable stage demonstrator at Vernon.
An unprecedented campaign in Europe
It happened on June 22 June : the ultra-low-cost Prometheus (Precursor Reusable Oxygen METHan cost Effective Engine) rocket engine, currently under development to equip European launchers by 2030, was once again fired at ArianeGroup's rocket engine production and testing site in Vernon, Eure, this time mounted on the Themis reusable main stage demonstrator, itself used as a test bed.
Conducted for 12 seconds, the test marked the end of a campaign unprecedented in Europe for a class of engines running on liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid bio-methane (LCH4), developing high thrust (980 kN) and reusable.
" This is an important step for the future of European launchers ", considers Philippe Baptiste in the same LinkedIn post, with the Prometheus and Themis programs (led by ArianeGroup and its partners on behalf of ESA) set to acquire the technological building blocks needed for reusability.
This first test campaign (which comes two years after the contract was signed with ESA for the initial phase of Themis) was made possible thanks to the support of France Relance, for which Cnes is operator for the space component.
In its June 23 press release, ArianeGroup states that " the continuation of Prometheus-Themis tests on the PF20 test bench in Vernon will make it possible to characterize the behavior of the engine and stage over an extended mission profile. Testing of the Prometheus engine will continue at the end of 2023 on the test stand at the DLR site in Lampoldshausen, Germany. "
A Users' Club
As part of the European Union's Horizon Europe program, a test campaign is also being prepared in Kiruna, Sweden, around the Salto project (reuSable strAtegic space Launcher Technologies & Operations - Technologies et opérations des lanceurs spatiaux stratégiques réutilisables), announced in July 2022 at a cost of 39 M€.
As the Franco-German industrialist stated at the time, the aim is to " validate the landing stage, which is essential for launcher recovery. [...] The target vehicle, which embeds several technologies matured by ArianeGroup and its partners, will pave the way for even more ambitious demonstrations, reproducing the high-energy trajectory representative of a real operational launch. "
The scale-1 reusable launcher stage demonstrator will have to make several low-altitude flights, before returning to land vertically at the Swedish base.
In the meantime, ArianeGroup is announcing the forthcoming creation of a Prometheus Users' Club, modelled on the Ariane 6 Users' Club set up in 2017, a step that will launch " the marketing phase of Prometheus towards all interested European players ".
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