Europa launchers

Europa Europa

In April 1960, the British government decided to stop building the Blue Streak IRBM, being studied since 1955. The development of this vehicle being almost completed, it was planned to use it as first stage of a satellite launcher. The British then proposed to the European countries to build in collaboration a three-stage launcher able to put a one ton payload in low earth orbit. March 29, 1962, the ELDO (European Launcher Development Organization) originated in London. This convention, which was actually signed in 1964, gathered Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, with Australia as associate member. Tasks were to be distributed in the following way: the United Kingdom would provide the first stage, France would build the second and Germany the third stage. The experimental satellites would be developed in Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands would take care of telemetry and remote controls; finally, the launches would take place from Woomera, in Australia.

Europa 1 project

The three-stage launcher, named ELDO A then Europa 1, was to measure 31.7 m in length and to weigh more than 110 tons. It should have been operational in 1966 and have been able to put a 1000-1200 kg payload in a 500 km circular orbit. The first stage, Blue Streak built by Hawker Siddeley Dynamics, measured 18.4 m in length and 3.05 m in diameter and weighed 95 t including 89 t of propellants (LOX and kerosene). It was propelled by two Rolls-Royce RZ-2 engines, developing 667 kN each at sea level (760 kN, ISp = 285 sec in vacuum), functioning during 160 seconds. The Coralie second stage was built by the LRBA and Nord Aviation. It was 5.50 m long and 2 m in diameter, weighed 12 t and carried 9.85 t of storable propellants (NTO and UDMH). Its four-chambered engine developed 268 kN (ISp = 280 sec) during 103 seconds. The third stage, built by MBB and ERNO, had the same diameter and was 3.81 m long. It weighed 4 t including 2.94 t of storable propellants (NTO and Az50). Its propulsion was ensured by a main engine and two verniers giving a total thrust of 23 kN (ISp = 290 sec) during 361 seconds.

1964-1966 tests

The test program included F flights with a Blue Streak first stage, and G flights with Cora rockets using Coralie as first stage. The first three launches, F1 to F3, occurred between June 1964 and March 1965 from Woomera, were all successes. The launches F4 to F5, for which the first stage was topped by upper stages mockups also were successful in May and November 1966. A few days later, at Hammaguir, the first G type flight failed; on the other hand, the second was successful in December 1966.

However, the program had taken an important delay and the estimate, established in 1961, was largely exceeded. Moreover, the missions to be entrusted to a European launcher had evolved; the program was thus re-orientated during the summer 1966. In addition to a redistribution of the financial participations, it was decided to transform Europa1 into a four-stage launcher able to place a satellite in geostationary transfer orbit and to use for that an equatorial rocket range, the Kourou space center in French Guiana.

1967-1970 tests

The first launch (F6) of a Europa rocket with two active stages, in August 1967, ended in a failure due to the Coralie 2nd stage. The Cora G3 flight - the last of the series because the G4 to G6 tests had been cancelled - also failed in October, just as the test F6-2 in December. The Coralie stage functioned correctly in 1968 and 1969 (F7 and F8 flights), during the first two tests of complete Europa 1, but Astris died out prematurely, causing the loss of the experimental satellites. In 1970, during the F9 flight, the three stages functioned correctly, but the launch resulted in a new failure, the fairing being not jettisoned. After eight years of work, the Europa 1 program ended without any success in orbiting a payload.

Europa 2 project

The new launcher comprised a perigee kick stage, named PAS (Perigee-Apogee System), 1.83 m in length and 0.80 m in diameter. It weighed 807 kg including 687 kg of Isolane propellant, and its engine developed 41.2 kN during 45 seconds. The Europa 2 program was funded 90% by France and Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy having left the project in 1969. The qualification of the launcher was considered with two flights (F11 and F12), the two following ones having to put into orbit the Symphony 1 and 2 satellites. In fact, Europa-2 was fired only once, November 5, 1971 from Kourou. An inertial guidance malfunction was at the origin of this new and last failure.

The program was cancelled in aid of the Europa 3 project, completely new and much more ambitious. Europa 3 was never born, but its first stage was used as a basis for that of the Ariane European launcher.

Europa program vehicles

Europa launches

#Launch idPayloadLaunch DateSiteTypeStatus/Comment
1n/a 05 Jun 1964WOO1, 1 stageballistic flight
2n/a 20 Oct 1964WOO1, 1 stageballistic flight
3n/a 22 Mar 1965WOO1, 1 stageballistic flight
4n/aupper stages mockups24 May 1966WOO1, 1 stageballistic flight
5n/aupper stages mockups15 Nov 1966WOO1, 1 stageballistic flight
6n/a3rd stage mockup04 Aug 1967WOO1, 2 stagesFailure
7n/a3rd stage mockup05 Dec 1967WOO1, 2 stagesFailure
8n/asatellite mockup30 Nov 1968WOO1, 3 stagesFailure
9n/asatellite mockup31 Jul 1969WOO1, 3 stagesFailure
10n/asatellite mockup11 Jun 1970WOO1, 3 stagesFailure
11n/asatellite mockup05 Nov 1971KRU2, 4 stagesFailure
Notes: Launch site: WOO for Woomera, Australia; KRU for Kourou, Guiana

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Please contact Jean-Jacques Serra <> for comments, corrections or questions