France and Germany in the European Space Agency are at loggerheads about the best way to compete in the launch market.


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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.

2 comments

  • Joe

    “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 your linked to article: ““On the commercial side, the market is divided into satellites weighing 5,000 to 6,000 kilograms, and satellites weighing around 3,000 kilograms. The competition is very clear: On the 6,000-kilogram end it is [Russia’s] Proton. On the 3,000-kilogram end it is [Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s] Falcon 9.”

    http://www.arianespace.com/launch-services-ariane5/ariane-5-intro.asp

    “As the world’s reference for heavy-lift launchers, Ariane 5 carries payloads weighing more than 10 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) and over 20 metric tons into low-Earth orbit (LEO) – with a high degree of accuracy mission after mission.”

    http://www.spacelaunchreport.com/falcon9.html

    “The Block 2 Falcon 9 would be able to lift nearly 10.5 tonnes to LEO from Cape Canaveral and 4.54 tonnes to a 28.5 deg GTO.”

    – Ariane 5 Payload to LEO – 20 Metric tons
    – Falcon 9 payload to LEO – 10.5 Metric tons

    The Ariane 5 payload capacity is almost twice that of the Falcon 9 so they or not really competitors. Additionally, your linked to article lists payload capacities; but does not specify orbits (LEO or Geosynchronous) so it is hard to make a comparison. The Falcon 9 (block 2) capacity is (for instance) to LEO 10,500 kilograms barely a third of the 3,000 kilograms suggested in the article (even if they are referring to LEO).

  • Joe

    “The Falcon 9 (block 2) capacity is (for instance) to LEO 10,500 kilograms barely a third of the 3,000 kilograms suggested in the article (even if they are referring to LEO).”

    I (embarrassingly obviously) made a mistake in that sentence (never post while multitasking). The point I intended to make was that the Falcon 9 is not a potential competitor to the Ariane 5 (that would be the Russian Proton) but to the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta 4 Medium.

    http://spaceworld.weebly.com/delta-4-medium.html

    “The Delta IV Medium (Delta 9040) is the most basic Delta IV. It features a single CBC and a modified Delta III second stage, with 4-meter liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks and a 4-meter payload fairing derived from the Delta III fairing. The Delta IV Medium is capable of launching 4,210 kg (9,285 lb) to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).”

    When (and If) you hear of ULA second guessing the Delta IV Medium, then would be the time to start suggesting that fear of the Falcon 9 has something to do with it.

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