Ariane 6 - NEWS

The European Space Agency (ESA) is developing a new-generation launcher, Ariane 6, and the Materials Testing Institute University of Stuttgart will contribute its part.
The key verification test of the future solid-rocket booster – based on fiber composite for the first time – will be performed in our 32 meters deep inspection shaft.

In close collaboration with MT Aerospace AG,
Augsburg, Germany.

More informations about the

ARIANE CFRP booster passes pressure test

Accompanied by a loud blast, all tensions relieve – within the booster for the new Ariane, as well as for the testing staff. The burst test marks the final of a several-day function testing on an Ariane booster demonstrator, which is made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP).

The days before, the booster was loaded with several pressure levels. It successfully passed all functional and security requirements. For the final burst test, the booster was intentionally loaded with excess pressure. All involved engineers from MPA Stuttgart and MT Aerospace AG followed this extraordinary event with high expectations. The blast of the booster – or more precisely: the pressure at which the booster fails – resolves the question about additional safety margins in comparison to the requirements.

The booster achieved all requirements and pre-set goals. For the MPA Stuttgart this result also pleases in another respect. Prof. Weihe, director of the MPA Stuttgart, expresses: “With this test we could once again prove our capability as a testing institute for complex experiments with high demands on equipment and security. I am proud of the performance of our engineers and technicians during the last weeks of preparations and in particular during the experiment.

The engineers from MT Aerospace AG return to Augsburg with a lot of measurement data. These data can be used for further optimizations. In addition to applied research, the students from the University of Stuttgart will profit from this experiment. The experience will be introduced into the institute’s lectures and inspire young engineers for their future careers.


View into the inspection shaft after the test
Credit: MPA Stuttgart

Security - to avoid a lift off

The upper ending of the test rig was installed, see picture below. It consists of three steel girders which contain blades. If the demonstrator lifts of during the verification test it will be breakup to avoid any damage at the surroundings.

Security to avoid a lift off - installation Complete security installation
The last part to avoid a lift off of the demonstrator
Credit: MPA Stuttgart
Complete installation
Credit: MPA Stuttgart

 Filling the Demonstrator

It took one and a half days to fill the entire demonstrator with water. At the beginning it had to be done very carefully, so that the thin sealing balloon inside the demonstrator wouldn’t be damaged because the entering water on top of demonstrator falls 6 meters down. Filling in the last liters had to be done very carefully as well. The water wasn’t allowed to overflow due to the already installed measurement instruments.

wasserbefuellung_300_4620 wasserbefuellung_4627_300
Filling the sealing balloon in the demonstrator
Credit: MPA Stuttgart

 Raising pupils interest in aerospace

The Pupils-Engineering-Academy of the Eschbachgymnasium in Stuttgart-Freiberg visited the MPA. We were proud that Professor Ewald from the Institute of Space Systems agreed to give a presentation about aerospace. As a former astronaut (on board at space station MIR in 1997) he could tell the pupils about what the life of an astronaut in space looks like. After his exciting talk the pupils could have a closer look at the demonstrator in our inspection shaft. They were allowed to go down to the upper level of the test rig standing directly in front of the demonstrator.

Montage der am Umfang befindlichen Laschen zur Kraftübertragung zwischen Demonstrator und Befestigungseinheit

Professor Ewald talks to students about "amazing aerospace"
Credit: MPA Stuttgart

Works on KW 26

After setting the demonstrator onto the base, it has to be fixed with distance plates and connection bolts equally on the circumference. The opening on the lower side of the demonstrator was closed by this base. The spaces in between are filled with glue. Therefore two people hanging on a winch were lowered inside the vessel to fulfill these adjustments.

Montage der am Umfang befindlichen Laschen zur Kraftübertragung zwischen Demonstrator und Befestigungseinheit

Mounting the distance plates and the connections bolts between the demonstrator and the base
Credit: MPA Stuttgart

In the meantime the installation of the measurement instrumentation has begun last week. The strain gauges on the demonstrator had already been applied when it was delivered. A strain gauge consists of a very thin foil with a meander wire. The foil is adjusted to the component which mechanical strains should be measured. When the component is under tension loading the wire elongates. This elongation causes a change of the electric resistance and is used to measure the strains. 44 strain gauges are fixed on the surface of the demonstrator. All of them have to be connected by cable to the measuring device. Furthermore, the installation of 48 displacement pick-ups has taken place last week and it is still on progress. The displacement pick-ups have a movable tracer pin. The movement of the tracer pin caused by an adjacent component can be measured precisely.

To avoid the water pouring out of the spaces between the demonstrator and the base, a thin sealing balloon made of caoutchouc is fixed inside the demonstrator. Later it will be filled with water. This balloon has no significant influence on the verification test itself. In the future booster there will be no sealing baloon because it will be filled with solid propellant.

Einbau der Dichtblase

Insertion of sealing balloon
Credit: MPA Stuttgart

The Delivery

The Technology Demonstrator was delivered to MPA on June 20th, 2017

Booster über Schacht Im Prüfschacht


The packed technology demonstrator:

ariane booster bei anlieferung

The Technology Demonstrator

The test specimen is a demonstrator of a solid-rocket launcher, which is mounted on the side of the main launcher.
The technology demonstrator was manufactured at MT Aerospace AG in Augsburg and is based on fiber composite for the first time. It has a diameter of 3.5 meters and is 6 meters high. This demonstrator is shortened in height compared to those that will be used in the future launchers. The booster is connected with the test rig by alumina rings. The application of the thrust is simulated with counter bearings in the nozzle area.
The solid-rocket launcher is filled with solid combustible and its function is to provide the launcher with the required thrust in the first 130 seconds after the start. When all fuel is burned, the solid-rocket launchers are dropped and the residual thrust will be provided by liquid fuels like hydrogen and oxygen.

Booster Prototyp der Ariane 6 bei MT Aerospace AG
Booster Demonstrator of Ariane 6 at MT Aerospace AG
Credit: MT Aerospace AG

Verification test Ariane 6

The verification test is supposed to reassure that the new-generation booster will meet the requirements of a rocket launch. It is devided in two parts. After the booster has been filled with water, two different pressure levels are generated in the first part and the measured values are recorded. In the second part, the water pressure is gradually increased until the test specimen fails.
Before the actual verification test can take place, some preparations have to be made. To analyze the material and component behavior in detail a lot of measurement instrumentation is needed.

Scheme Burst test

Prüfstand Ariane 6

Scheme of the qualification tests
Credit: MPA Stuttgart
Test rig inside the inspection shaft:
Booster – black/white
rocket piston – yellow
Test rig – blue
Credit: MT Aerospace AG

Ariane 6 in general

Konfigurationen Ariane 5 und 6



For 30 years Ariane 5 has successfully brought satellites into space. But now it is time to develop a new, improved launcher to stay competitive on the global market.

The new generation, Ariane 6, will have a better cost-payload ratio that will be the half of the actual Ariane 5 ratio.

Two configurations are developed:
Ariane 62 with 2 solid-rocket launchers
Ariane 64 with 4 solid- rocket launchers.

As a result the payload is 5 or 10.5 tons respectively and the total weight is 500 or 800 tons respectively. The first start of an Ariane 6 will take place in 2020.

Video: Ariane 6 Animation (cut)

Credit: ESA/David Ducros

Comparison of the two Ariane 6 configurations
(left Ariane 62, right Ariane 64)
Credit: ESA/David Ducros


Burst test Ariane 5 (1994)

Well-known for its technical experience in all concerns of pressure vessels, the MPA was the first choice to perform the Ariane 5 booster verification test in 1994. The demonstrator tested was 12 meters high and was assembled by mounting 7 segments inside the inspection shaft. The extrusion-molded components had a wall thickness of 8.2 mm. To perform the pressure test and later on the burst test, the booster was gradually filled with water. The burst pressure was measured as 1.44 times greater than the working pressure. When the booster bursted, the water poured forth and the test rig with the test specimen – all in all almost 400 tons - was moved by 40 cm and the volume of about 350 bathtubs filled the inspection shaft.
See the video of the verification test at that time (Ariane 5).

Video MPA Burst test 1994


Credit: MPA Stuttgart


Reports by third parties and external links:

externer Link Stuttgarter Zeitung Article on July 20th (german)

externer Link MT Aerospace, Article on July 19th

externer Link Bayerische Staatsregierung, Article on July 19th (german)

externer Link SWR Television on June 20th (german)

externer Link SWR Television Report on June 20th (german)

externer Link Esslinger Zeitung Article on June 22th (german)

externer Link MPA Facebook page

University of Stuttgart press release (german)