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The competition heats up: Arianespace announced yesterday that it has won two new commercial launch contracts, and will aim in 2017 to tie its own record for yearly launches at 12.
Arianespace will also seek to tie its record number of launches with 12 missions planned this year. The company first reached this cadence in 2015, and was on track to tie it again last year were it not for a shipping issue that delayed the launch of DSN-1, a Japanese X-band military communications satellite damaged en route Europe’s Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana.
I suspect that one reason Arianespace is getting these contracts, despite charging significantly more than SpaceX, is that they are successfully getting their customer’s payloads into orbit. SpaceX has a gigantic backlog of launches, so it makes no sense to give them more work as the launches will certainly not occur when these satellite companies need them to occur. This fact only ups the pressure and the competition. SpaceX has got to start getting that backlog into orbit, or else its business model will suffer significantly.