Astris is expected to fly for new missions in the first half of 2024 as an optional upper stage of Ariane 6. This upgrade will offer a new range of services allowing for new orbital transfers.
Astris will make missions easier by having integrated propulsion capabilities, useful for moving payloads to their final orbital position. With the BERTA engine, satellite manufacturers will no longer need to account for this component in their development phases. Its modular architecture makes it even more versatile by offering greater capabilities. The structure will also include a family of propellant tanks, allowing for the development of custom-made kits for each customer.
From low orbit to space exploration
“The ESA’s Astris kick stage is a significant development to ensure that Ariane 6 can meet the widest possible range of current and future space transport requirements. It is a key element to enable flexible space transport services, such as space logistics, on-orbit servicing and specific exploration missions” said Daniel Neuenschwander, Director of Space Transportation at the European Space Agency (ESA).
With Astris, Ariane 6 can aim for deep space exploration by sharing payloads with destinations like asteroids, the Moon, and Mars. Astris’s design philosophy will make objects in the Solar System more accessible to a wider range of payloads. At the same time, closer to Earth, Astris will increase Ariane 6’s ability to distribute payloads to low Earth orbits with a single launch.
Alternatively, Ariane 6 could place a payload in a transfer orbit, then Astris would separate from the upper stage to bring a second payload directly to its final position in a geostationary orbit. Astris kick stage activities are being carried out as part of the ESA’s Ariane 6 competitiveness improvement program for future new space missions. It anticipates space transport needs and collaborates with industry to create solutions to ensure that Europe remains competitive in the global market.