Home Science Future of Space Travel With Reusable Rockets

Future of Space Travel With Reusable Rockets

Future of Space Travel With Reusable Rockets

Prometheus Full Ignition

Prometheus full ignition, ArianeGroup test center in Vernon, France on June 22, 2023. The Prometheus engine, designed with a thrust capacity of 100 tonnes, uses innovative materials and manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing to cut its costs down to one-tenth of its predecessor, the Ariane 5’s Vulcain 2. Prometheus operates on a clean-burning, liquid oxygen-liquid methane fuel to simplify handling and enhance reusability. Furthermore, the engine is mounted on a reusable rocket stage prototype, Themis, and will undergo a series of hop-tests to evaluate flight and landing capabilities. Credit: ArianeGroup

Progressing with the development of reusable European rockets, ArianeGroup successfully tested Prometheus, a 100-tonne thrust class engine that uses liquid oxygen-liquid methane fuel and 3D printing for cost-effective, clean, and reusable operations. Mounted on a prototype reusable rocket stage, Themis, the engine is set for further tests to assess flight and landing capabilities and is expected to be a central element in future European launchers.

Work to develop a reusable engine for European rockets is progressing, with full ignition of an early prototype of Prometheus. These images were taken on June 22, 2023, at ArianeGroup’s test facility in Vernon, France during a 12-second burn. 

The 100-tonne thrust class Prometheus features extensive use of new materials and manufacturing techniques designed to reduce its cost to just a tenth of Ariane 5’s Vulcain 2, an upgraded version of which – Vulcain 2.1 – powers the core stage of Ariane 6. 

Prometheus burns liquid oxygen-liquid methane fuel. Methane is clean burning and simplifies handling, to help enable reusability and reduce the cost of ground operations before and after flight.

Prometheus features variable thrust and multiple ignition capabilities. Additive layer manufacturing – so-called 3D printing – features extensively, reducing the number of parts, speeding up production, and reducing waste. 

For the Vernon and Lampoldshausen tests, Prometheus is mounted in a prototype of a reusable rocket stage, called Themis, which is being developed in parallel with the engine. Later, this engine-stage combination will attempt a series of “hop-tests,” lifting a few meters above the ground to check flight and landing capability. 

Together, Prometheus and Themis are envisioned to be common technological building blocks for a future family of European launchers. 


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