Following last November’s successful first burn, ArianeGroup has moved forward in its reusable engine project thanks to a full ignition of the Prometheus prototype on June 22, 2023. The 12-second static fire also completed the first test of this kind for Themis, the reusable rocket stage, designed by the French company for the European Space Agency (ESA).
Work to develop a reusable engine for European rockets is progressing!🚀— ESA (@esa) June 23, 2023
Yesterday, there was a successful full ignition of an early prototype of Prometheus at @ArianeGroup's test facility in Vernon, France.
👉 https://t.co/7dCnMaE2Lk pic.twitter.com/G5wFKbPE07
A new engine for the next generation of European launchers
The Prometheus engine was designed to be reusable and significantly less expensive than its predecessors, Vulcain 2 and 2.1. The wide use of innovative materials and unique production techniques, such as 3D printing, speeds up the entire production time and reduces the number of engine parts and the relative waste.
The 100-ton thrust class engine burns liquid oxygen-liquid methane fuel (methalox), like other next-generation rocket engines. Moreover, its design features a variable thrust, multiple ignition capabilities, and intelligent edge control systems.
Combining all these features, Prometheus promises to lower its costs to a tenth of the current Ariane’s engines and become a vital component of the new generation of European launch vehicles.
“Prometheus is one of the most exciting new technology development projects in Europe today. We are showing the way to a low-cost future for space operations based on 100% European technology.”— Rüdeger Albat, ESA Head of Future Space Transportation
Reusability is no longer a tabu for Europe’s space ambitions.
Prometheus was mounted on its mate Themis for the ignition test, a reusable rocket core stage. The combined trial enables the recovery of a huge amount of operational data of the whole demonstrator in an extended mission profile.
“The complete test of the Prometheus engine, carried out directly on the reusable Themis stage demonstrator, has been particularly eagerly anticipated as it opens up highly promising avenues for the future family of European launchers.”— Martin Sion, CEO of ArianeGroup
The Prometheus engine will continue to be tested by the end of 2023 at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Lampoldshausen, Germany. Once completed, the engine-stage system will move on to the next step, a series of “hop-tests”, lifting a few meters above the ground to verify flight and landing capability.