Europe settles on Ariane 6 design

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The competition heats up? Airbus Safran and the European Space Agency have settled on the design of their next generation rocket, Ariane 6.

It will not be re-usable, and though they say it will be 40-50% cheaper to produce than Ariane 5, it is very clear from the quotes in the article that they are instead depending on trade restrictions to maintain their European customers, even if it costs them a lot more to put satellites in orbit.

For its part, Airbus Safran does not envisage making Ariane 6 recoverable, not in the short term. Mr Charmeau [the company’s CEO] believes that different market conditions apply in Europe and the US, which means there will not be a single, winner-takes-all approach. He cites, for example, the restricted procurement that exists in all major political blocs, which essentially bars foreign rockets from launching home institutional and government satellites. Nowhere is this more true than in the US, but in Europe too there is an “unwritten rule” that European states should use European rockets.

From an American perspective this lazy attitude is fine with me. Let American companies compete aggressively. They will then leave the Europeans and everyone else in the dust.


  • Calvin Dodge

    So instead of ESA being penalized, its customers will be? I wonder what they think of that?

  • pzatchok

    I have a simple question.

    If the new rocket is being designed and built 40 to 50% cheaper why didn’t they do this years ago and pass the savings onto the customer?

    The technology has not changed that much in the last 20 years.

    I bet if they left out all the bribes and kick backs the cost would be even lower.

  • Edward


    It isn’t so much “kickbacks” and “bribes” as it is politics. A variety of nations contribute money to the project, and each one expects to get jobs in return. Thus, rather than making sure that the most efficient or most effective companies get the contracts, contracts are distributed throughout Europe in a manner that makes the countries the least angry about how it is distributed.

    An advantage of a private company (as opposed to a government overregulated one, such as Arianespace) is that *it* chooses its vendors, usually based more upon cost and performance expectations, not quite so much on political issues.

    This was one of the main points that Arianespace was fighting when working out the details for the Ariane 6 rocket. Applying some reusability technology was another point.

    The article seems to suggest that they won the first point.
    “We have chosen an optimised industrial organisation”

    Yes, I suspect that the cost could be even lower, and I suspect that SpaceX — and perhaps other companies, too — will take the lead away from Arianespace, in the launch business, just as Arianespace took it from American companies a couple of decades ago.

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