Czech company to manufacture and test parts of the Ariane 6 space rocket

Ariane 6, photo: ESA/David Ducros

The Klatovy-based company Aerotech Czech will be manufacturing and testing parts of the propulsion system of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) upcoming Ariane 6. The carrier rocket is set to have its first launch in 2020 and will carry a Czech flag on its hull.

Ariane 6,  photo: ESA/David Ducros
Since 2014 the European Space Agency in collaboration with European industry has been developing a new generation rocket designed for lifting objects into space – the Ariane 6.

Involved in the project is also the Klatovy-based company, Aerotech Czech. Aerotech is not a newcomer to the space business, having worked on the previous model Ariane 5. However, as Aerotech project manager Aleš Homolka explains, its role has now increased.

“Regarding Ariane 5 we only worked on riveting small parts. However, now we have made a bit of a leap forward, being entrusted with the production of certain parts and the selection of suppliers. We are also responsible for the design, because when it is not possible to meld or create the components we contact the design team and they accept our improvements.”

The Czech Republic is one of thirteen European countries cooperating on the new rocket project and when Ariane 6 shoots off into space in 2020 as is projected, its hull will be marked with the Czech flag.

Aerotech received the contract from the international engineering company MT Aerospace, a major producer of important components for both the European space programme and Europe’s fleet of Airbus planes.

The order has benefited not just the company but also the west Bohemian town of Klatovy. A whole new manufacturing plant dedicated to working on the rocket project was built in the town. Costing hundreds of millions of crowns it was also partly funded by the ESA. Up to 50 new jobs could be created once production starts.

Mr. Homolka says that Aerotech Czech will be manufacturing around 140 parts for the rocket and that these will also be tested in the country.

“In regards to the manufacturing we are producing the forward and rear skirt from the raw material plates. That means cutting, melding and assembling the components. In the interests of our own production, testing will also be undertaken partly in the Czech Republic, with the rear skirt being tested at the VZLÚ in Prague.”

The VZLÚ is the abbreviation for the Czech Aerospace Research Centre, a state owned organisation which has been responsible for testing Czech aircraft since 1922, but is also active in the field of space research.

One of its hangars has been chosen to store a new 55-ton testing device which is capable of exerting 700 tons of pressure, the equivalent of the rocket’s weight, on specific parts. The device’s design is currently awaiting confirmation from MT Aerospace.

Aerotech is not the only Czech company involved in the production of the new Ariane 6. Other input includes software and launch pad components.