Encyclopedia Astronautica

FLTP landing
FLTP orbiter lands
FLTP Launch
FLTP Reusable Launch Vehicle Launch
FLTP Separation
Separation of Booster and Orbiter stages of European FLTP
European winged orbital launch vehicle. Europe's Future Launcher Technology Program (FLTP) was an ESA study program that ran from 1999-2002, with the objective of identifying and developing technologies necessary for the successor to the Ariane 5. The planned configuration was a two-stage fully recoverable winged launch vehicle. The winged booster would deliver the orbiter to a given altitude, then booster fly back to its launch base at Kourou. The second stage orbiter continued to orbit, delivered its payload and then returned to Kourou. The program faded out following collapse of the commercial launch market, development problems with the Ariane 5, and cancellation of NASA reusable launch vehicle projects.

The study was led by CNES, and first flight was planned for 2020. The spacecraft was designated to be unmanned. But its configuration could include human cargo at a later point.

The FLTP program was launched at the interministerial conference of ESA in May 1999, with funding of $ 48 million for 1999 to 2001. This was to be followed by an 18 month period during which a technology demonstration program would be defined for approval at the ESA interministerial council in mid-2001. This demonstration program would run from 2002 to 2007, at which time a decision on Ariane 5's successor could be made. Two flying demonstrators were envisioned for the technology phase:

  • EXTV (European eXperimental Test Vehicle). This was to be a reusable winged rocket-powered atmospheric reentry demonstrator capable of reaching speeds of Mach 4 to 10 in the atmosphere. The aim was to build up experience in reuse operations and high-speed atmospheric flight. The demonstrator would weigh two tons and have a range of 1500 kilometers. It would be able to land on a conventional runway. Dassault and Aerospatiale Matra were to merge their VEHRA and ARES projects to produce a single design. Ares estimated cost was 550 million dollars.
  • Themis, a booster stage demonstrator, weighing 55 tonnes, to demonstrate integrated propellant tank technology. The demonstrator engine would be derived from the Vulcain of the Ariane 5. Estimated cost was up to 2.5 billion dollars. THEMIS would carry 33t of propellant, enough to reach Mach 11. Expendable boosters might permit orbital flight.

Development of the final commercial reusable launch vehicle (RLV) could cost between 7 to 16 billion dollars, up to twice that of Ariane 5. CNES calculations indicated that an RLV using Ariane 5 propulsion and materials technology would be no cheaper than the Ariane 5 itself. Therefore the need for the FLTP was clear to demonstrate new technology and provide the basis for a decision in 1997.

Thanks to Nicolas Pillet for providing images and information for this entry.

AKA: Future Launcher Technology Program; Ariane 6.
Status: Design 1999.

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Winged In the beginning, nobody (except Jules Verne) thought anybody would be travelling to space and back in ballistic cannon balls. The only proper way for a space voyager to return to earth was at the controls of a real winged airplane. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • ESA European agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. European Space Agency, Europe. More...

  • Sweetman. Bill, "Review of Air Force Association Show", Interavia, 9/23/87.

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