According to the former CEO of Arianespace, now head of the French space agency, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 costs significantly less to launch than the Ariane 5


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According to the former CEO of Arianespace, now head of the French space agency, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 costs significantly less to launch than the Ariane 5.

How big is the difference? Jean-Yves Le Gall, who until mid-2013 was chief executive of Evry, France-based Arianespace and is now president of the French space agency, CNES, addressed the point in Feb. 25 testimony to the French Senate. According to Le Gall, launching a satellite on an Ariane 5 costs around 100 million euros ($137 million). After subtracting the amount of European Space Agency subsidies to Arianespace, the per-satellite cost drops to about $100 million, he said.

Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX, he said, would charge $60 million to $70 million to launch the same satellite aboard the Falcon 9. In fact SpaceX has charged even less than that to its first few commercial customers.

It is for this reason that Arianespace is struggling to decide how to build its next generation rocket. They have find a way to do it cheaper, something that is very difficult for this multi-headed European conglomerate to do.

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3 comments

  • geoffc

    Ariane 6 is slated for launch in 2021 or so. At a cost that today, cannot compete with SpaceX. They are not look at any kind of reuse, just commonality of solid boosters, so that they manufacture 4 basically similar boosters for each launch.

    By 2021, SpaceX will be flying reusably, in pretty much any rational scenario. Ariane 6 is obsolete before they even finish designing it.

  • Robert Clark

    The space industry still is not getting the lessons learned from NASA’s commercial space program. For both SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, for both launchers and spacecraft, the development costs were reduced by 90%(!) by the commercial space approach. That’s four separate instances proving the principle.
    By commercial space, each of those developments that would normally cost in the billion dollar range were developed for a few hundred million dollars, an order of magnitude reduction in cost. At this cost range any industrialized country could afford to have their own independent space program, no consortiums such as the ESA required.

    Bob Clark

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