Kourou/Augsburg, 4 July 2022. The European Space Agency ESA, the French space agency CNES, MT Aerospace AG (a subsidiary of OHB SE) and a group of European industrial and academic partners joined forces to cut CO2 emissions associated with orbital launches. They intend to establish infrastructure to underpin a hydrogen ecosystem supporting Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. The project HYGUANE (HYdrogène GUyanais A Neutralité Environnementale) aims to establish a pilot plant within the spaceport capable of producing 130 tons per year of renewable hydrogen, with the goal of dramatically reducing spaceport greenhouse gas emissions.
From grey to green
The key to this system is the replacement of "grey" hydrogen produced by a widely used but emission-intensive industrial process called methanol steam reforming with “green” hydrogen produced by water electrolysis from renewable energy. That renewable hydrogen, used to fuel rockets, will reduce CO2 emissions linked to the Ariane programme by several thousand tons per year.
HYGUANE will also contribute to the emergence of a hydrogen ecosystem in French Guiana, enabling the introduction of hydrogen-fuelled heavy transport of people and goods, as well as hydrogen fuel cells for energy storage. The partners recently signed a letter of interest for the project, opening the path to the realisation of a plan that has been several years in the making. An innovative co-financing concept pools funds from ESA, industrial partners and France's national economic stimulus programme.
MT Aerospace responsible for future hydrogen competence centre
There are also plans to set up a hydrogen competence centre in French Guiana under the responsibility of MT Aerospace to develop specialised know-how for the maintenance and operation of these new systems and to support start-ups.
"We have been a reliable partner at Guiana Space Center (CSG) in Kourou for 25 years now and have been responsible for ground support systems and launch preparations. We would like to contribute this very know-how just like our expertise with hydrogen mobility built up over decades to help shape a more sustainable future - socially, ecologically and economically", says Ulrich Scheib, President MT Aerospace Guyane and Board Member MT Aerospace AG. Further cooperation partners are AirLiquide, SARA, Be.Blue, the Université de Guyane and the Université de Liège.
ESA and CNES accelerate decarbonisation of rocket launches
Teddy Peponnet, ESA’s European Spaceport Infrastructure & Renewable Energy Project Manager, says: “Investment in renewable hydrogen production at the Spaceport will cut costs, reduce exposure to rising fossil fuel prices and take a load off French Guiana’s electricity grid. HYGUANE will put us well ahead of COP21 and European Green Deal emissions objectives.”
ESA Director of Space Transportation Daniel Neuenschwander says he was delighted to advance the HYGUANE project: “This is a good step for greening Europe's spaceport. The number of launches is growing rapidly, so now is the right time to invest. A green hydrogen system will support environmental sustainability, stabilise costs and protect Spaceport operations from energy supply disruption.”
“We’ll also be helping to establish an energy and mobility system that will benefit the citizens of French Guiana. CNES is proud to be a strong player of such journey”, adds Laurence Monnoyer-Smith, CNES Director of Sustainability Development & Performance.