ESA-developed P120C solid rocket motor enters production

(31 Mar 2022) ESA's Ariane 6 and Vega-C will soon join the family of launch vehicles operating from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. The P120C motor, which will power both Ariane 6 and Vega-C, will soon come into operations with the Vega-C inaugural flight.

The 'C' stands for 'common' as P120C will be used as the first stage of Vega-C and two or four will be used as strap-on boosters for Ariane 6. This strategy reduced development costs, benefits from economies of scale, and creates an opportunity for Europe to scale up production.

The P120C motor is ESA's new solid propulsion workhorse. The P120C will burn for about 130 s using 142 t of fuel to deliver a lift-off thrust of about 4,500 kN. It was developed by Europropulsion, which is owned jointly by Avio and ArianeGroup.

P120C is 13.5 m long and 3.4 m in diameter. Its 25 cm-thick monolithic casing is made using carbon composite material at Avio in Italy. ArianeGroup in France developed the advanced P120C nozzle, while Nammo in Norway provided the igniter.

Plans for a more powerful version of this motor, called the P120C+, are already in motion. With an extra 14 t of solid propellant in a casing that is extended by about one meter, the P120C+ enables extra payload capacity. This would make the Ariane 6 and Vega-C vehicles more competitive and versatile, extending the range of mission opportunities. The new motor would replace the P120C for use on both Ariane 6 and Vega-C.

The P120C+ plan will be part of proposals submitted for consideration at the ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level in 2022.

Reference: ESA PR

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