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Space, an Italian engine that will make the difference

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A few days ago, at the Salto di Quirra shooting range in Sardinia, M10 . engine He passed his first test brilliantly. It’s an important stage for any engine, not to mention one designed to bypass the atmosphere.

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Although few have noticed – except for some insiders and Minister Vittorio Colao – The verification conducted at the Space Propulsion Test Facility wrote an important date in the records space in italy: For the first time in Europe Space engine powered by liquid oxygen and methane Proven to do what it was designed for by Italian engineers Avio. The same people who, from Colifero, on the outskirts of Rome, have already written important pages in the history of European space, above all thanks to the more than ten years of successes of the Vega rocket, the light rocket that has become a reference in the field of low-orbit transport trade, that is, from Among the arrows closest to our planet (from three hundred to a thousand kilometers).


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Stefan Israel, CEO of Arianespace (Which of Avio is one of the main partners): In Rome he wanted to meet with the press to talk about the upcoming plans of his company, the “more space” part of the French giant ArianeGroup (from Airbus and Safran).

It is testimony to a “dynamic moment” – which Israel called it – “that makes us optimistic”. A moment in which the thoughts and activities of those who envision and implement missiles abound on the Old Continent. Never before have new shooters been so talked about in recent months, accomplices Competition from individuals Abroad – Elon Musk e Jeff Bezos First of all – a new approach to space features zoom out For technologies, cost reduction, and last but not least, one war Which until an unknown date has excluded from the market one of the most reliable missiles, the Russian Soyuz (moreover in the Arianespace catalog, which is not without consequences for already contracted orders).

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Although “we have no announcements,” Israel explained to the press, the group’s upcoming innovations, which also include Avio’s manufacturing activities, are not available: in chronological order, 2022 will be the start of Vega Cwhere “C” stands for Standardization, Colleferro’s new born, designed to improve the performance of its predecessor and make it more commercially competitive: Consisting of three phases for solid fuel and one phase for liquid fuel, the Vega C will be more flexible and versatile than the Vega, and has the ability to on pregnancy 90% of the satellites in the market The Earth’s orbit is low compared to 50% of Vega’s. Official date of his first appearance, the so-called first flight, It has not yet happened, but the European Space Agency and Avio, for which Arianespace will provide technical support, have reported an open launch window at the end of June, in French Guiana.

The first stage of the Vega C will be the new P120 C, the engine used as a booster for the “heavier” appearance – In the strict sense of the word – From Arianespace, that’s from Ariane 6, the awaited new generation of rocket launchers made in Europe for the heaviest loads and escort even beyond low orbit. It is no coincidence that Ariane 6, in configuration 64, which has four boosters, has already been selected to bring part of the 3,236 satellites. Kuiper constellation From Amazon, designed to increase global access to broadband. Although the terms are not general, the contract includes 18 transportation It is estimated to cost each one From 68 to 110 million dollars.

Israel said: “The emergence of the two systems will be close to each other – we expect Ariane 6 to reach space for the first time by the end of the year. The integration of the actuators will ensure that we are satisfied Any business need, which gives great dynamism to Arianespace’s presentation. We also have industry agreements with Avio to protect Vega’s interests with one the ruler clear and agreed upon.

And the director’s response, even very implicitly, does not seem to be an answer to those who, for some time, have been acknowledging the repeated attempts of a Franco-German “coup” against the Italian aerospace industry. Because even the least attentive shouldn’t miss it Market Scope Teleportation in the coming years: “Access to Arianespace in 2021-2030 could be valid $3.35 billion per yearIsrael explained. A number, at least according to estimates by the French company, consisting of large commercial non-geostationary tower launches for $1670 million (including Kuiper who served with Ariane 6), of commercial geostationary satellites for 510 million (Ariane) . 6), European institutional satellites for 500 million (Ariane 6, Vega C), non-geostationary small commercial planets for $350 million (Vega C, Ariane 6) and non-geostationary export satellites for $215 million (Vega C). , Aryan (6)).

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In other words, a rich and ever-growing dish, not for nothing based on the aforementioned European fermentation of extraterrestrial transport systems: thanks to private funds or public funding, for example ESA, There are many startups target market Run by Arianespace and Avio using different technologies and methods: three are German (Isaar Aerospace, Rocket Factory Augsburg and HyImpulse), two are British (Orbital Express Launch and Skyrora), and are different Spanish; There are those who, like Welsh B2Space and Iberian Zero 2 Infinity, are studying rocket launches by balloon or airborne (a recent solution has caught the attention of Germany’s Gaia Aerospace, French Dark and Spanish Celestia Aerospace). There is no shortage of pioneering experiments, such as the Romanian Arca Space experiments, which with European Community funding are developing three stages the first of which are steam-powered, or by Italian Sidereus Space Dynamics, by less than thirty years Mattia Barbarossa, which aims to achieve a small launcher to transport 30 kg payloads.

Small satellites do not mean small or small launchersHe points to Arianespace’s Number One, in response to those who blame his group (and all of Europe) for delays in developing lighter rockets and in reusing technologies, made famous by the return of Falcon 9s to Earth.

“The market for small launchers is only 10%,” Israel said, believing it could not be satisfied with solutions ride sharing And with competitive prices, it’s overly optimistic. This does not exclude the possibility of the Ariane 6 and Vega C being combined by a small or small launcher to provide rapid access to space and to some specific orbits.”

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In other words, the answer to Musk’s impressive geographic returns or avant-garde transportation systems in small space, for Israel, is twofold: “On the one hand, we meet the challenge by Maya, a reusable launcher (For loads up to half a ton, ed.) From which we took up the project by creating a start-up company affiliated with the group. On the other hand, we expand the diversity of our offer with an extension distributor Like SMS, it has already been successfully tested in the Vega VV16 mission.”

abbreviation for Small spacecraft mission service, is a modular converter that allows you to load different satellites into the operator’s cone, in order to distribute costs among several customers and meet all operational needs. “With the latest liquid fuel stage, the Vega C will allow for seven restarts, two times more than its predecessor. So it will be feasible. Three orbital phases, more than in the past. for customers It would be like having a bus, able to stop near the chosen destination: it is clear that the accuracy of the delivery also brings advantages in the economic sense. The SMS appearance on the Vega C should arrive early January 2023.”

Of course, although the centralization of the sector in France is backed by the strong support of each government – a support that is attributed, first of all, to the prestige of atomic energy – Space Billionaires A source of motivation, but also a source of challenges: “SpaceX and Blue Origin have business models that are suitable for the US market, Much wider than European. Do not underestimate, for example, that, according to estimates published by the Washington Post, it will be more profitable for SpaceX to become service provider From space manufacturing: by 2025, it is expected that approximately $25 billion annually will be raised from Starlink internet services – now also available in Italy – and less than 5 billion will be generated from space vector exploitation. Reuse is certainly the next step, but it must be demanded and supported by the market, which in the European case means a huge constellation. At this point, we can only take advantage of the change that Musk and his ilk have brought about.”

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