"Actually, there are big improvements that can be made on the launch capability of the US rockets. "
"They have done this by upgrading there tech consistently."
That should read "ESA have consistently handed CNES a big bag of cash to upgrade to the next generation of Ariane before handing it to Arianespace to sell."
" Ariane 1,2, and 3 were actually based on the old tech that most american launches are still based on, Ariane 4 was a redevelopment of Ariane 3 which is the level of the current american launch capability. "
Absolutely incorrect. The core propellant combo for *all* of these vehicles was a hypergolic storable that was phased out in 2005. The titan series were the *only* US launch design to use it. The others used the much safer or much higher performance LOX/liquid hydrocarbon or Lox/LH2, with the exception of the Scout all solid design.
I'd say that's a major underestimation of the US state of practice through Delta IV and Atlas V
Arianes tech is not exactly leading edge. It took 4 generations for CNES to weed out the very nasty hypergolic propellant combo. The core is a common bulkhead LOX/LH2 stage with an engine in the J2 class. It's basically a Saturn SIVb with 2 large segmented SRBs (have they gone to the fibre reinforced single piece design yet)?
The expander cycle De Vinci, modelled on the RL10 (first flown about 1961) has not flown yet. Its machined cooling channel laser welded nozzle is probably the most advanced piece of tech on the design (no surprise that P&W wanted it for some of their engine designs, but as a sub contractor from Volvo in Sweden)
The Ariane 5 would not have been that good if it was not meant to carry the French Hermes space plane, making it effectively man rated (insofar as that means anything). AFAIK *the* key CNES design principle was "Let's only do what NASA have done for at least 20 years." I'm not sure if they don't read AIAA reports or are forbidden from using anything they find in them.
At the very *least* composite cased SRB's should have been flying at least 20 years ago. In terms of low(ish) cost tweaks a shift in the mixture ratio on the Saturn 5 gained it a 2.5% payload increase. While Europe had no experience of pumped LH2 engines before Volcain they should have moved tot he J2S gas tapoff cycle. This would have given a lighter weight (LOX/LH2 engines have the *worst* T/W of any engine type specifically designed for an ELV), simpler (but possibly trickier to test) design.
Arianspaces *real* achievement is to treat it more as a *business* and to *substantially* reduce the "Standing army" compared to *nearly* all current US launches (Only Sealaunch seemed to have seriously cut down the support team needed. I'd like to hope they make it out of Chp11.
"Theres a lot that can be done,"
" but requiring political will to initiate a change is always going to lead to failure..."
"Ariane as a system and a business is *entirely* a product of political will. Only the *slighlty* greater distancing from government seems to given it the improved economics that make it such a popular choice. And they *still* undercut by the Russians.