Avio is leaving the control of ESA and Arianespace, creating a new launch vehicle8th Nov 2023
At the 2023 Space Summit in Seville, member countries of the European Space Agency (ESA) reached a consensus to grant the Italian company Avio the authority to oversee and promote the launch of Vega C separately from Arianespace.
Avio’s Request to Part Ways with Arianespace
On 26th October, Avio formally requested permission from the European Space Agency to sever its ties with Arianespace. This request did not come as a surprise, as Avio, with strong backing from the Italian government, has been actively working on expanding its launch business beyond ESA and Arianespace.
The Key Agreements in ESA’s Commitment to Avio and Ariane 6 Funding
Italy, France, and Germany have reached an agreement to provide financial support for forthcoming launches of the delayed Ariane 6 and Avio’s compact Vega-C rockets. This introduces the potential for Avio to operate Vega-C independently, alongside its existing partnership with Arianespace.
The governments of the ESA have made a commitment to continue funding the Ariane 6 heavy rocket program until at least 2029. Furthermore, they have ensured the procurement of an average of at least four Ariane 6 missions per year indefinitely.
In addition to this, ESA member countries have also entrusted Avio SpA of Italy, the primary contractor for the Vega rocket, with the responsibility of marketing future Vega and Vega-C launches, extending beyond those already contracted through Arianespace.
Avio’s Preparatory Initiatives since 2022: A Closer Look
In June 2022, Avio announced that it had received €340 million in funding from the Italian government to develop a new methane-oxygen (metalox) first stage engine and a demonstrator for a partially reusable launch vehicle. In July 2023, Avio’s CEO, Giulio Ranzo, revealed that this reusable demonstrator would serve as a precursor to a completely new product line for the company.
The French space agency CNES pre-selected Avio in July 2022, along with six other launch service companies, to utilize the upcoming commercial launch facility being constructed at the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana, on the site of the former Diamant launch complex. At that time, the specific purposes Avio had in mind for this facility remained uncertain, given its ongoing launch operations involving Vega and Vega-C.