Evry, France--The concerns of Arianespace regarding the rise of SpaceX haven't been a secret; however, only now have they revealed plans for a counter-attack. Enter the Ariane 5.1, a "bare-bones" variant of the wildly successful Ariane 5. In a recent press conference, Stéphane Israël, the CEO of Ariane Space, said that "we can't keep up in the launch business with the rise of SpaceX, so we must slash our prices."
Some noticeable design differences between this and the Ariane 5 is that the first stage has been shortened 80%; it is still unclear where the core engine is supposed to be. The boosters are missing a separation mechanism from the core stage, so they will land together, saving complexity and cost. Half of the first stage fuel will be reserved to land the core-SRB structure. Another interesting design choice made here is the use of the new "flat nose." Apparently, fairings are proving to be too expensive for Arianespace to build and fly, so they opted out of using fairings. Instead, satellites will have to be integrated on top of the nose. CJ Tooney, a payloads integrations engineer for Arianespace, said:
"It makes my job so much easier to just slap a satellite on top of the rocket rather than having to climb inside the fairing and attach it. Damage caused to the satellite due to aerodynamic forces or heat is none of our responsibility."
When asked about what this means for the future of the Ariane 6 rocket, Tooney says:
"Just expect some major design changes to be announced in the near future."