FLPP- Preparing For Europe's Next Generation Launcher

FLPP is instrumental in the European strategy for access to space.

FLPP- Preparing For Europe's Next Generation Launcher

FLPP- Preparing For Europe's Next Generation Launcher

Future Launchers Preparatory Programme ( FLPP), is the European Space Agency's new launch system for responding to Europe's future institutional needs and guaranteed access to space. This programme began in 2003, with a lot of research activities and a combination of new technologies for reliable and reduced operational costs.

The programme was aimed to reduce recurring cost and development risk. Keeping long term industry competitiveness, promote reusability to reduce development costs, assess evolutions of operational launchers and to develop environmentally friendly technologies.

Some of the technical advancements aimed were - lightweight and high-performance systems, Spin-in &use of commercial off-the-shelf technologies, more electric-based launchers, orbit injection strategies, robust structures & design and Green launch systems.

Implementation of the Programme

The structure of the programme is in a series with partially overlapping periods:

Period 1 (2004-06):  Study of the reusable launch vehicle concept, driving technology developments and identification of evolution to reduce expendable launch vehicle costs.

Period 2 Step 1 ( 2006-09): development and maturation of critical demonstrations.
Period 2 Step 2( 2009-13): progression through ground demo stators, flight experiments and cryogenic upper-stage technologies.

Period 3/ New Economic Opportunities ( FLPO NEO) (2013-19): adding details to technology requirements & support launcher strategic planning.

Rocket engine

Prometheus- an ultra-low-cost and a precursor of a reusable 100-tonne class rocket engine with Liquid oxygen-methane as propellants.

ESA and Ariane Group have signed a contract to develop a full-scale demonstrator to be ground tested in November 2020. Prometheus' additive layer-by-layer manufacturing of engine parts enables faster production, with fewer parts. A computer system is there to allow real-time adjustment and immediate diagnosis for potential reusability.
"Prometheus will power Europe's future launchers, forging a path of continuous improvement in competitiveness," says Daniel Neuenschwander.

Rocket engines that are powered by storable propellants ( stored as a liquid at room temperature) are easy to ignite reliably and repeatedly on missions lasting many months.

Materials used:

FLPP investigated alternate materials to make rockets lighter. Aluminium was replaced by Carbon composite for lighter upper stage structures, fuel tanks and rocket fairings ( protects the payloads on their way to space).
For external tank insulation for cryogenic upper stages, the closed-cell polyurethane foam material is sprayed.

An additive layer manufacturing for fracture critical structural parts built in titanium, high strength aluminium alloy and polymer could also be there in secondary launchers.

"Rockets are the backbone of all space-based endeavours. ESA, in partnership with industry, is developing next-generation space vehicles, Ariane6, Vega-C, and Space Rider. At Space 19+, ESA will propose further enhancements to these programs and introduce new ideas to help Europe work together to build a robust space transportation economy"- ESA.