Long history and great expertise behind the development of Ariane 6 rocket nozzle

For more than two decades, FORCE Technology has participated in development projects for ESA, the European Space Agency. The latest addition is a new rocket nozzle concept where ESA demands that it must be adaptable to various engines.

In addition, production costs and throughput time must be significantly reduced without compromising dependability or operational reliability.

The space industry has the highest requirements for quality, performance and operational reliability, and there is a constant need for new innovative solutions. 

”It is a privilege that FORCE Technology can participate in the project and bring our expertise and technological power of change into play," says Thomas Aaboe Jensen, program manager at FORCE Technology.

Additive manufacturing and laser technology contribute to exorbitant improvements

The development of the new design for the rocket nozzle has been realised via additive manufacturing, laser welding technology and customised sensor technology that controls and guides the laser process.

The development work has been performed in close co-operation with Swedish GKN Aerospace and in the process the co-operation has developed into a professional partnership where FORCE Technology has acted as a natural extension of the development department at GKN Aerospace. A ping pong of ideas often ended up being tested in practice at FORCE Technology’s unique facilities.

”We have constructed a fully automatic production plant which first laser-welds approx. 1,400 cooling channels in the high-temperature resistant stainless steel and subsequently adds the necessary reinforcements using additive manufacturing,” says Thomas Aaboe Jensen.

The rocket nozzle has a diameter of 2.1 meter at its widest point and a height of 2.3 meter. The combination of the new design of the rocket nozzle and FORCE Technology’s new production method has resulted in a 90% reduction in the number of sub-components and a 40% cost reduction in addition to a 30% reduction in production time. 

In addition to many and different prototypes for testing during the development phase, FORCE Technology has also delivered the sensor system for a new advanced production plant at GKN Aerospace, where future nozzles will be manufactured.

The new engine was successfully tested in 2018 and thus passed the most important milestone, ”approved for flight”. The maiden flight with the Ariane 6 launcher will take place at the end of 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FORCE Technology has already manufactured the nozzles for Ariane 6’s first five flights.

Knowledge must be brought to use in society and contribute to long-term development 

FORCE Technology makes unique test facilities and specialist competences available to Danish companies to speed up the Danish innovation and strengthen the competitiveness of the companies.

”As a GTS institute, it is only natural for our newly developed concepts to be brought to use in industry in a broader context. We are therefore always willing to assist Danish companies if they can benefit from our knowledge and technology and thus contribute to the long-term development of society," says Thomas Aaboe Jensen from FORCE Technology.

The rocket nozzle ready for testing.
Prototype of rocket nozzle ready for testing. Photo DLR.