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Astrium wins study for new Vega upper stage


* Astrium to study new concepts for Vega rocket upper stage
* DLR contract opens up new potential for Astrium’s Bremen site

Bremen,– Astrium has won a contract from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne to investigate concepts for a new upper stage for the European launcher Vega. The project is named “Venus” (Vega New Upper Stage). Currently under development, Vega is a small European launch vehicle which is scheduled for first launch in 2009. The study now awarded to Astrium is worth roughly half a million euros and will run for a period of 18 months.

“This study holds tremendous potential for Astrium in Bremen. It could lead to us developing and building the upper stages of every future European launcher. We will be using our extensive expertise built up on Ariane as we progress the study – which should establish our reputation as the specialist for upper stages in Germany and across Europe,” said Günter Stamerjohanns, Astrium’s head of launcher systems in Germany at the contract signing in Bremen. The upper stage currently envisaged for Vega, which is designed to carry payloads of up to 1.5 metric tons, will have a Russian/Ukrainian propulsion system.

“Germany supports independent European access to space. This independent access is becoming increasingly important with respect to small launch vehicles, given the declining availability and rising launch prices for converted Russian ex-military launchers,” explained Dr Claus Lippert, head of space transportation at the DLR.

The Vega rocket is being developed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) under contract to the European Space Agency ESA. Germany has not participated in the programme so far. However, if the expected increase in transport requirements for European miniature satellites and the greater risk due to Europe’s dependency on Russian launch services should lead to a decision to place more emphasis on ‘Europeanising’ Vega and enhancing its performance, it could become necessary for Germany to participate in the programme as a specialist for upper stages. Dr Lippert continued: “In preparation for a possible decision of this nature, we tasked Astrium with investigating various technical concepts under the Venus project.” A decision as to whether or not Germany should participate in any further development of Vega, and in what form, could then be made in 2008 on the basis of these findings. The area is being investigated in close consultation with ESA and ASI, and is likely to feature on the agenda of the ESA countries’ next ministerial conference at the end of 2008, according to Dr Lippert.


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