PARIS (Reuters) - ArianeGroup, the space-launchers joint-venture between Airbus and Safran, has passed an industrial milestone allowing it to move ahead with production of the first Ariane 6, Europe's next-generation rocket, the company said on Monday.
The first flight of the replacement for the Ariane 5 government and commercial launcher is scheduled for mid-2020.
It is being developed in two versions, Ariane 62 with two boosters and Ariane 64 with four.
These will be capable of carrying payloads of around 5 tonnes and 11 tonnes respectively into geostationary transfer orbit, a staging post en route to a satellite's final position.
The milestone, known as Maturity Gate 6.2 on a scale of 15 such progress reviews, "makes it possible to start production on the first Ariane 6 flight model," ArianeGroup said.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher, editing by Louise Heavens)