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European Space Agency Is Aiming for Its Own Low-Cost Reusable Rocket

Prometheus engine represents a breakthrough in terms of cost and manufacturing.

European Space Agency Is Aiming for Its Own Low-Cost Reusable Rocket
Ariane Group visualizes a future launch vehicle.Ariane Group

Reusable rockets are the future: SpaceX has revolutionized the way we perceive rocket launches thanks to them and has recently made history by using its Falcon 9 to launch astronauts and cargo to the ISS. Now, understandably, other institutions are joining the reusable rocket game by developing theirs.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has joined the wagon by developing its own reusable rocket engine and its aim is to make rocket launches cheaper.

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Prometheus engine design

Last year, CNES, the French space agency, had unveiled its plans for a reusable rocket and now, ESA has chosen to fully fund the Prometheus engine design. The aim is to create a usable version and that can be produced down to a tenth of the cost compared to current designs.

European Space Agency Is Aiming for Its Own Low-Cost Reusable Rocket
Example Prometheus flight configuration, Source: ESA

Can be produced down to a tenth of the cost

The ESA describes the engine as "the precursor of ultra-low-cost rocket propulsion that is flexible enough to fit a fleet of new launch vehicles for any mission and will be potentially reusable."

The ESA also stated that the engine will be able to be adjusted for different requirements. Its innovative qualities make it a flexible engine: "Features such as variable thrust, multiple ignitions, suitability for main and upper-stage application, and minimized ground operations before and after flight also make Prometheus a highly flexible engine."

Testings starting soon

The testing of the hardware components will be done at the German Space Agency facilities in Lampoldsheusen, Germany, and will soon begin. It is reported that the ESA has manufactured the turbo pump's turbine, pump inlet, and gas generator valves. Right now, they are at the manufacturing of the main subsystems.

The first combustion chamber model is due to June, and the first Prometheus engine test model's combustion chamber will be delivered in December 2020. After engineers assemble it, testing on the ground will be in 2021.

This engine will be a breakthrough in terms of cost and manufacturing, and its robust design will be "the baseline for future evolutions of Ariane to 2030."

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