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The competition heats up: While the launch industry eagerly awaits SpaceX’s first commercial Falcon 9 launch on September 10, Arianespace has been signing up customers.
Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel said Aug. 29 after the last Ariane 5 launch that the company has booked around 300 million euros ($400 million) in new orders in recent weeks, bringing this year’s total contract volume to 1 billion euros. Industry officials said the contracts are for government missions in Brazil and Japan, and commercial operators in Brazil, the United States, Mexico and Spain.
The Ariane 5 is incredibly reliable, having successfully completed more than fifty launches in a row. It is also much more expensive that Falcon 9, which is expected to cost a customer about half as much to get a payload into orbit.
Until SpaceX proves Falcon 9, Arianespace will be in a strong position to get customers. Once Falcon 9 starts flying regularly however, Arianespace will begin to lose business to this cheaper alternative. Thus, the new contracts will help tide the company over while they scramble to figure out how to reduce costs in order to compete.
In related news, SpaceX readies the new upgraded Falcon 9 for launch.