The competition heats up: France and Germany in the European Space Agency are in serious disagreement about whether to replace the Ariane 5 or upgrade it.
The French space agency, CNES, quietly backed by Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium, has argued that the current Ariane 5 heavy-lift vehicle has only a fragile hold on its current 50 percent commercial market share. Just as important, according to the French reasoning, is that the entire Ariane 5 system, including its ground infrastructure, is expensive to operate and likely to remain so. Because money is short in Europe, it would be preferable to move immediately to a next-generation vehicle that would carry payloads ranging from 2,500 kilograms to 6,000 kilograms — with an extension to 8,000 kilograms — into geostationary transfer orbit, one at a time. This modular vehicle ultimately would replace not only today’s Ariane 5, but also the Russian Soyuz rocket that is now operating from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana.
Set against this reasoning are industrial policy issues raised by the German space agency, DLR, and by Astrium, which is Ariane 5’s prime contractor. They say Europe needs to complete development of an upgraded Ariane 5 — at a cost of about 1.4 billion euros ($1.8 billion) — before embarking on a decade-long development of an Ariane 6 whose cost and industrial work-share distribution are unknown. [emphasis mine]
It is very clear that ESA has recognized that once Falcon 9 becomes completely operational, it will be difficult to get anyone to buy tickets on the very expensive Ariane 5. From the article it appears the battle centers on the fact that the French realize this, while the Germans are willing to look the other way.