This year Astrium expects to deliver six Ariane 5 rockets to commercial launch consortium Arianespace, which is anticipating ordering 18 Ariane 5 launchers from Astrium's space transportation division in 2013.
A fourth ATV is slated to launch this year, though an initial launch date of April 18 has been postponed as ESA tests a replacement component on the cargo vessel's Integrated Cargo Carrier. Astrium delivered ATV-4 in September to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, where it is undergoing final integration and test prior to the mission.
“It was during the final part of the testing of the ATV when we found a problem with an avionics box inside the ATV, so the integration has been stopped,” ATV-4 mission manager Alberto Novelli said Feb. 22, adding that despite the ISS's busy traffic schedule, there are several opportunities in May and June to launch the ATV.
In the coming months, Astrium expects to sign a contract with NASA to begin work on an ATV-derived service module that will fly on NASA's Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle in 2017.
As Astrium continues work on Ariane 5 ME, the company will be looking for synergies between the rocket's new, more powerful upper stage and the design of an Ariane 5 successor, known as Ariane 6. Astrium's Bremen, Germany, location has added 70 positions as a result of continued work on the mid-life upgrade, which was approved at the ESA budget meeting in November. But Astrium says design of the next-generation Ariane 6, including the proportion of liquid versus solid propulsion, would necessitate a restructuring of the launcher industry among ESA's primary financial backers, including France, Germany and Italy.
“This will have consequences for the liquid and solid propulsion industries in Europe and they will have to be restructured,” Astrium CEO Francois Auque said during a Jan. 28 breakfast with reporters in Paris, noting that Astrium's German facilities do not have expertise in solid rocket propulsion. “To the extent you have more solid fuel stages, there will be more work in Italy and France because of work share,” unless Germany contributes additional funding to the effort.
Astrium expects to launch as many as 10 satellites in 2013, including ESA's Gaia astronomy mission and the Astra 2E, SES 6, Alphasat 1-XL and Astra 5B telecom satellites. The company is also preparing five Earth observation satellites for launch, including ESA's three Swarm spacecraft, Vietnam's VNREDSat-1 and Astrium's SPOT 7, which Auque says will launch late this year or early next year atop an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).