ArianeGroup, headquartered in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris, France, has successfully completed the final test in the ignition campaign of the reusable Prometheus® engine for the Themis rocket stage demonstrator, which is being used as the test bench. The engine, 70% of which was reportedly built using Additive Manufacturing, performed a 12-second burn.
Prometheus and Themis are European Space Agency (ESA) programmes for which ArianeGroup is the lead contractor. Prometheus, a new-generation, reusable, high-thrust (100 ton) engine that runs on liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid methane (LCH4), has been developed by ArianeGroup and its European partners. This test campaign consisted of firing the Prometheus engine on Themis, as the test bed, and was reportedly completed within a short time-frame due to the support of France Relance, for which the French space agency CNES is the space component operator.
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This first combined test campaign comes two years after the contract for the initial phase of Themis was signed with ESA, a key step in the project’s progress paving the way for the next test campaign, which is due to be carried out at Kiruna in Sweden, under the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme (SALTO project). Carrying out these tests on Prometheus and Themis together on the PF20 test bench at Vernon will allow characterisation of the operating behaviour of both engine and stage in an extended mission profile. Prometheus engine testing will continue at the end of 2023 on the German Aerospace Center (DLR) test bench at Lampoldshausen, Germany.
For this campaign, ArianeGroup used bio-methane fuel, in line with the company’s aim for environmental innovation.
“This successfully concluded test campaign marks a first concrete step for development of reusable launchers built in Europe,” said Martin Sion, CEO of ArianeGroup. “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. The campaign at Vernon was made possible by the close collaboration of the teams from ArianeGroup, ESA, and CNES, and the support of France Relance.”