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Space Propulsion Systems for Launchers and Spacecraft

Rocket engines, thrusters, propulsion systems and components for the access, utilisation and exploration of space.

Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus Group formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military. The new division is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises. It employs some 40,000 employees generating revenues of approximately €14 billion per year.


Space Systems is one of four business lines integrated within Airbus Defence and Space, as shown below:


Airbus Defence and Space Busines Lines



Space Systems - A major business line within Airbus Defence and Space


The Headquarters of the Space Propulsion Division of Airbus Defence and Space is located in Munich, Germany. Together with our related sites at Lampoldshausen, Bremen, Friedrichshafen and Trauen, we have been specialising in the design, development, production, integration and testing of rocket engines, complete space propulsion systems, subsystems and components for over 50 years.


Our primary space propulsion activities are distributed between two specialist centres located in Ottobrunn, Munich and Lampoldshausen, near Stuttgart. These two centres have the following expertise:

Ottobrunn - Launcher Propulsion

Rocket engines & thrust chambers from Ottobrunn used on all stages of Ariane 5.
EnlargeRocket engines & thrust chambers from Ottobrunn used on all stages of Ariane 5. Image: courtesy ESA

Formerly MBB (Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm) in the late 1960s, Airbus DS Ottobrunn is the European centre of competence for liquid propellant rocket engines and thrust chambers for launch vehicles and their upper stages.


Thrust from Ottobrunn has powered all versions of the Ariane launcher family since the first launch of Ariane 1 in 1979. Today, rocket engines and thrust chambers from Ottobrunn continue to be used on Ariane 5, and on each of its cryogenic and bipropellant upper stage variants.


The Ottobrunn team have pioneered many of the technological development in rocket engines, having set a number of European and world records. Rocket engine technologies from Ottobrunn have also contributed to the development of the Space Shuttle Main Engines - the world's first reusable man-rated rocket engine.


The thrust chamber is the heart of every liquid rocket engine. Modern manufacturing methods combined with expertise gathered since 1963 has enabled the Ottobrunn team to develop highly efficient and reliable thrust chambers for both cryogenic and bipropellant rocket engines. These state-of-the-art thrust chambers are used in both our own rocket engines, as well as those of Snecma, France.


Aestus Rocket Engine
EnlargeAestus Rocket Engine
Aestus rocket engine for powering the Ariane 5 bipropellant upper stage
EnlargeAestus rocket engine beneath Ariane 5 bipropellant upper stage


More information: Ottobrunn Home

Lampoldshausen - Spacecraft Propulsion

Series thruster production for spacecraft propulsion systems at Lampoldshausen. Series thruster production for spacecraft propulsion systems at Lampoldshausen

Airbus DS Lampoldshausen is the European centre of competence for propulsion systems, bipropellant thrusters, hydrazine thrusters and liquid apogee engines for spacecraft and orbital satellites.


Propulsion systems, sub-systems and components from Lampoldshausen are used for a diverse range of satellite and spacecraft applications including orbital satellites, interplanetary spacecraft, re-entry vehicles and resupply missions to the International Space Station using the Automated Transfer Vehicle. Typical examples are featured in our Showcase


Thruster based propulsion systems from Lampoldshausen are also used for launch vehicle roll control and upper stage attitude control, as typically used on the Ariane 5 AOCS.


The Lampoldshausen centre also supplies the propulsion systems for hundreds of satellites and spacecraft launched by Ariane 5 and other international launch vehicles, as can be seen in the Spacecraft Propulsion Heritage Catalogue.


Automated Transfer Vehicle

The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is an expendable, pressurised unmanned resupply spacecraft used to supply the International Space Station with propellant, water, air, payloads, and experiments. The ATV can also raise the space station into a higher orbit.


Five ATVs, Jules Verne, Johannes Kepler, Edoardo Amaldi, Albert Einstein and Georges Lemaître, have been launched by Ariane 5 since March 2008.


The ATV propulsion system comprises 4 x 490 N main engines and 28 x 200 N attitude control thrusters.
The Lampoldshausen centre is responsible for the production, integration and acceptance testing of the:


  • ATV propulsion module pressure control assemblies.
  • Propellant Isolation Assembly.
  • Attitude control and braking thruster clusters.


Automated Transfer Vehicle
EnlargeATV using thrust from Airbus Space Systems, Lampoldshausen



ORION Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV)

Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for the development and construction of the service module for Orion - the future American human space capsule.


The service module will provide propulsion, power supply, thermal control and the central elements of the life support system of the American capsule.


It is the first time that Europe has been involved in providing system-critical elements for an American space project. In December 2012, US space agency NASA and ESA agreed to certify the new US Orion spacecraft in conjunction with the European service module. This module is based on the design of and the experience gained from the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) developed and constructed by Airbus Defence and Space on behalf of ESA as a supply craft for the International Space Station.


The 200N bipropellant thruster that was developed for the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) where it demonstrated its flawless performance on all mission, has been selected to fly in the Multipurpose Crew Vehicle.


ORION Service Module
ORION Service Module


Hot-fire testing of propulsion systems, thrusters and rocket engines

Airbus DS Lampoldshausen is located within the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) The centre incorporates both company owned and ESA facilities for the testing of large rocket engines, thrusters, propulsion systems and subsystems.


Meteosat Propulsion System.
Meteosat Propulsion System


More information: Lampoldshausen Home


Propulsion for Any Space Mission

Propulsion for any space mission.
Propulsion for any space mission

Together, the Ottobrunn and Lampoldshausen Centres supply all of the flight proven propulsive means for the access, utilisation and exploration of space.


Our smallest thruster could power a model car small enough to hold in one's hand, while the thrust chamber of just one of our largest rocket engines could power a jumbo jet.


We are able to provide thrust for any space mission or application through the use of our rocket engines, thrust chambers, bipropellant thrusters, monopropellant thrusters, ion engines, satellite propulsion systems and propulsion systems for interplanetary spacecraft.


Today, our space propulsion developments continue with the future evolution of Ariane 5, higher performing rocket engines and thrusters, new space technologies, new materials and new manufacturing processes and procedures.

Investing in the Future

To enhance future developments, a company owned test centre has been established for satellite and launcher propulsion.


Manufactuing and production centre for rocket engines and cryogenic valves
Manufacturing and production centre for rocket engines and cryogenic valves

Notable investments have also been made in the construction of a new rocket engine production centre for high performance machining, CNC and robotic manufacturing and specialist processes. Airbus DS has also invested a total of 17.5 Million Euros from its own funds into the Ottobrunn site.


Implementation of new technologies is supported by the Bavarian Research Foundation.


New technologies, notable investments and our heritage and passion for excellence will further reinforce our position as the European centre of competence for space propulsion.