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, of dramatically reducing Spaceport greenhouse gas emissions.
Key to the scheme is to replace “grey” hydrogen – produced by a widely used but CO2 emitter-intensive industrial process known as 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 to French Guiana, enabling the introduction of hydrogen-fuelled heavy transport of people and goods and 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-funding combines support from ESA, industrial partners and the France national recovery plan.
Also planned is the creation of a Hydrogen Competence Centre in French Guiana under MT-Aerospace responsibility to develop specific know-how to maintain and operate these new systems and to help develop start-ups.
“We have been a reliable partner at Guiana Space Center (CSG) in Kourou/French Guiana for 25 years now and responsible for ground support systems and launch preparations. We would like to contribute this know-how just like our expertise with hydrogen mobility built over decades to help shape a more sustainable future – socially, ecologically and economically”, says Ulrich Scheib, President MT Aerospace Guyane with a staff of 70 and Board Member MT Aerospace AG. Further cooperation partners are AirLiquide, SARA, Be.Blue, the Université de Guyane and the Université de Liège.
Teddy Peponnet, ESA’s European Spaceport Infrastructure & Renewable Energy Project Manager, said, “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.”