Tag Archives: Arianespace

Arianespace issues contract to build 10 more Vega rockets

Capitalism in space: Arianespace has awarded the Italian manufacturer a new contract to build ten more Vega rockets.

Of these ten rockets, three already have launch contracts for ESA satellites. I suspect Arianespace already knows of at least seven more government payloads are mandated to use its rockets to get into space, which would explain this rocket order now.

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ESA buys the first Ariane 6 launches

The European Space Agency (ESA) has purchased the first two Ariane 6 launches to place four of its Galileo GPS satellites in orbit in the 2020-21 timeframe.

This is not a big surprise, since ESA is mandated to use Arianespace’s rockets, and the space agency is the obvious candidate for making the first commitment to this new rocket’s use.

The press release does not mention the price that Arianespace is charging for these launches, but I suspect it isn’t anywhere near as cheap as they will have to charge to truly private and commercial customers. Essentially, I am willing to bet that this contract award is a bit of crony capitalism, designed to pass some extra cash from ESA to Arianespace.

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Arianespace announces new launch contracts

Capitalism in space: Arianespace today announced it has won a new launch contract for two different satellites, bringing its launch manifest to 53.

The press release contains a lot of interesting tidbits:

  • They plan to complete 11 launches in 2017, which is slightly above their yearly average in the past six years.
  • In 2018 they presently have only 7 launches planned, the lowest number since 2013.
  • Of the 53 launches, Ariane 5 will do 17, Soyuz 27, and Vega 9, suggesting a shift away from Ariane 5, which has been the company’s mainstay.
  • The private joint partnership of Airbus and Safran, now called ArianeGroup, has taken control of the business, and has begun streamlining it.
  • Arianespace has now been relegated to only handling “customer relations” and launch operations.

Overall, it looks like this European private/government partnership is doing reasonably well in the new very competitive launch market. I still expect their business to shrink in the coming years, but I think they will be around for awhile.

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Arianespace pins down source of launch abort

Arianespace has identified an issue in the electrical system in one of the Ariane 5’s solid rocket boosters as the source of the launch abort yesterday.

This is a preliminary report. They still need to find out exactly what happened and why. However, they also announced that their objective is to launch before the end of September. Moreover, they are not going to change the schedule of any of their other launches because of this.

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Webb telescope launch might be delayed again

Because of a scheduling conflict with a European mission to Mercury Arianespace might delay its launch of the American James Webb Space Telescope to 2019.

A time-sensitive mission to explore the planet Mercury, already delayed several times, may force the European Space Agency (ESA) and Arianespace to push back the launch of NASA’s multi-billion dollar James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) into early 2019. The mission, named BepiColombo, is currently scheduled to launch on the same rocket, the Ariane 5, from the same spaceport in French Guiana, during the same timeframe that the JWST is scheduled to launch (October 2018).

A launch delay to BepiColumbo won’t impact the science of the ESA/Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission, but it would translate to a longer journey to Mercury. The last launch delay, which pushed it from April 2018 to October 2018, also translated to a year longer voyage to reach Mercury, now expected to arrive in 2025 instead of 2024.

This is a perfect illustration of the difference between governments and private enterprise. Government-owned Arianespace has been flying its Ariane 5 rockets now for almost two decades, but they have not yet learned how to launch two rockets in one month, and don’t appear interested in trying. Meanwhile, private companies like SpaceX and ULA are both working to achieve a normal twice-a-month launch rate, with SpaceX likely to beat that in the next few years.

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Arianespace gets another launch contract

Capitalism in space: Arianespace has won new contracts for two launches of its Vega rocket.

More important however was this tidbit:

And, with another two flights to geostationary orbit booked for its Ariane 5 heavy lifter, the Arianespace orderbook now stands at €4.8 billion ($5.3 billion), with 53 launches for 28 customers: 18 using Ariane 5, 25 for the mid-weight Soyuz and 10 for Vega/Vega C.

Compare that manifest with Russia’s, which now only has 15 commercial launch contracts through 2023. Compare it also to SpaceX’s which lists about 30 commercial launches, excluding its NASA cargo and crew missions to ISS.

It would appear that Russia has so far been the big loser in the new competitive launch industry. This can of course change, especially if Russia fixes its production problems, becomes a reliable launch company, and offers competitive prices.

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Arianespace successfully launches two commercial satellites

Capitalism in space: Arianespace tonight successfully launched two commercial communications satellite with its Ariane 5 rocket.

This is the third launch by the company since it settled its labor problems in French Guiana in late April. Since then they have managed a launch ever two weeks, and at the moment Arianespace and SpaceX are tied for the most launches in 2017 at six. This tie should only last until Saturday when SpaceX hopes to launch a reused Dragon to ISS.

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France settles union dispute in French Guiana

The union strike that has stopped all Arianespace launches from French Guiana for the past month has been settled.

The article provides no details on the settlement itself. Instead, it outlines the company’s intention to complete all the scheduled launches they had planned for 2017.

Update: This story outlines the basic agreement.

It authorises an emergency relief plan of up to 2.1 billion euros, which includes funds for security, education, healthcare and business aid.

France had already approved 1.1 billion in aid for French Guiana at the beginning of April. The additional funds were offered to meet demands made by the collective and local representatives, who rejected the government’s initial offer.

France will prioritise the implementation of the spending plan, said Bareigts, who described the agreement as a “decisive day for the future of Guiana”.

Essentially, this is a payoff to the unions and group in French Guiana that organized the strike. I am sure a lot of the money will go for good purposes, but I am even more sure that a majority of it will simply end up in the pockets of the strike organizers, doing little to help the people of French Guiana themselves.

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Arianespace wins new commercial contract

Capitalism in space: Arianespace has been awarded a new contract to launch a commercial satellite for Intelsat.

The article doesn’t say how much Arianespace charged for the launch, but I am willing to bet that the price was lower than previously, even if it was still higher than what SpaceX charges.

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Italian rocket engine company stock surges in trading debut

Capitalism in space: The stock of the Italian rocket engine company Avio jumped 11 percent in value on its first day of public trading.

The company is the prime contractor for Arianespace’s Vega rocket, and is also making engines and parts for the new Ariane 6 rocket being built by Airbus-Safran.

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Strikers attempt to occupy Arianespace spaceport in French Guiana

The labor strike that has shut down Arianespace’s French Guiana spaceport has taken to turn for the worse with an attempt by about 30 strikers to occupy the spaceport.

The article provides almost no details. We also have had no recent updates on the state of the labor negotiations. At the moment it appears this strike could last a while.

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French Guiana strikes continue

The strikes in French Guiana that canceled last week’s Ariane 5 launch have now escalated, practically paralyzing the country.

It also looks like this situation will not be settled quickly. Many of the local mayors have refused to meet with the representatives sent over by the French government.

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Labor strikes force Arianespace to suspend all French Guiana launches

Arianespace today announced that it is suspending all launches from French Guiana indefinitely while it works out the labor problems that surfaced this week with wildcat strikes.

Arianespace chief executive Stephane Israel tweeted Wednesday that officials will set a new target launch date as soon as possible.

The delay will likely cause Arianespace to push back the following launch from French Guiana. Once the Ariane 5 takes off, a Russian-made Soyuz rocket is next in line at the tropical space base, slated to loft the Boeing-built SES 15 communications satellite into orbit to provide in-flight Internet connectivity for airline passengers, and support government, networking and maritime customers across North America. SES 15 also hosts a payload for the FAA’s Wide-Area Augmentation System to enhance airline navigation and safety across the United States.

Liftoff of SES 15 was scheduled for April 4, but it takes nearly two weeks to reconfigure the French Guiana spaceport and downrange tracking stations between launches.

These problems play into the hands of Arianespace’s competitors, SpaceX, the Russians, and ULA.

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More strike actions delay Ariane 5 again

Protests by local workers that have blocked roads has forced Arianespace to once again delay the Ariane 5 launch of two commercial satellites.

Local newspaper France Guyane reports that local electricians, hospital employees, farmers and transportation workers — including the drivers that transport the Ariane 5 rockets — are among those protesting working and living conditions in the South American town that’s home to Europe’s main launch center. Locals blocked roads around Kourou Monday and Tuesday, preventing Arianespace from transferring the rocket from the final assembly building at the spaceport to the launch zone. Evry, France-based Arianespace launches the Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega rockets from the Guiana Space Center.

…Local employees of Endel, the French industrial maintenance company that trucks the Ariane 5 rockets for Arianespace, are striking to reopen wage negotiations. Those discussions began Monday night, but failed to reach an agreement, according to France Guyane. The paper reports that other members of the union UTG, as well as the French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CDTG) and Force Ouvrière unions, are also involved in various demonstrations.

The Guyanese Union of Road Transport (UGTR) is also protesting the use of foreign trucks from the European construction company Eiffage, France Guyane says. CNES in July awarded Eclair6, a consortium led by Eiffage, a $222.2 million contract 2016 to build the launch facility for the future Ariane 6 rocket. UGTR said it asked the spaceport not to bring in foreign trucks to do work that that its members could do with equally capable trucks of their own.

None of this is going to help Arianespace in its effort to compete in the modern very aggressive launch industry.

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Ariane 5 launch delayed by labor strike

The launch of two communications satellites on an Ariane 5 was delayed today by a strike at Arianespace’s French Guiana spaceport.

A work stoppage at the Ariane 5 rocket’s launch base in South America prevented rollout of the booster to the launch pad Monday, pushing back the liftoff of two communications satellites for Brazil and South Korea until at least Wednesday.

The fully-assembled launcher was set to roll out of the final assembly building Monday morning for the 1.7-mile (2.7-kilometer) journey to the ELA-3 launch zone at the Guiana Space Center. Arianespace officials were aiming for a launch attempt Tuesday evening.

But the rollout did not happen due to a “social movement” at the spaceport, according to Arianespace. Officials blamed the postponement on a strike among a segment of the workforce at the Guiana Space Center, which is managed by CNES, the French space agency, with support from the European Space Agency and numerous European contractors.

The article suggests that this was not a sanctioned strike, based on the expiration of a contract. Instead it appears to have been a wildcat strike, created to apply the most pressure in order to blackmail the company into giving the strikers more money. If so, and if Arianespace agrees to terms, its labor relations in French Guiana are going to decline quickly.

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ESA commits $91 million to reusable rocket engine development

The competition heats up? Despite a general lack of interest in reusability, the ESA has now committed $91 million to develop a new low cost prototype reusable rocket engine.

In an interview with SpaceNews, Airbus Safran Launchers CEO Alain Charmeau said FLPP is allocating 85 million euros ($91 million) to Prometheus to fund research and development leading to a 2020 test firing. Now that Prometheus is an ESA program, Charmeau expects more countries will get involved. “ESA will pay the contract to Airbus Safran Launchers and then Airbus Safran Launchers will cooperate with European industry, of course France and Germany, but we will have also contributions from Italy, Belgium, Sweden and probably a couple of others to a smaller extent,” Charmeau said.

This project reminds me of many NASA development projects. The agency spends the money to do a test firing, but the prototype is never used and gets abandoned as soon as the test is completed.

Things might change, however, come the 2020s. By then I think American companies will be quite successful in their effort to create reusable rockets, and that will leave Europe in the lurch competitively. Their solution at this time for combating that future competition however is not getting more competitive. Instead, as noted in the article at the link, Airbus Safran, the company building Ariane 6, wants the ESA to compel its members to use their rocket, regardless of cost.

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Arianespace wins two contracts, aims for a dozen launches in 2017

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.

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Vega launches a Turkish commercial smallsat

The competition heats up: Arianespace’s Vega rocket today successfully launched a Turkish commercial smallsat.

The satellite itself, at 1,000 kilograms or about 2,200 pounds, is at the large end of the smallsat range, which means Vega is not likely competitive with the newer smaller rockets now being designed by a host of new companies to lift even smaller payloads.

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Want to see an Ariane 5 launch in French Guiana? You can!

Arianespace and Airbus Safran are holding a contest where the winning prize is an all-expenses paid trip to French Guiana to see an Ariane 5 launch in 2017.

This is part of Airbus Safran’s public relations effort to promote their new rocket, Ariane 6, that will replace Ariane 5.

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Russia and ESA in money dispute

A money dispute between Russia and France could threaten the ESA/Russian ExoMars partnership, as well as the Arianespace deal that launches Soyuz rockets from French Guiana.

In what appears to be an attempt to force France’s European neighbors to apply pressure to Paris, Roscosmos hinted that multiple cooperative space efforts between Russian and the European Union, and with the European Space Agency (ESA), could suffer if the payments are not freed. The payments, which are not disputed by Arianespace, have been one of the collateral effects of the battle by former shareholders of Russia’s Yukos oil company. In 2014, these shareholders won an initial award of $50 billion from an international arbitration panel in The Hague, Netherlands, against the Russian government for dismantling the company.

Since then, the shareholders have been trying to collect Russian government assets wherever they find a sympathetic legal environment outside Russia, including France and Belgium. In France, different shareholder representatives sought seizure of the Eutelsat and Arianespace payments. The same dispute has blocked payments to other Russian companies. Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat owes Russia’s biggest satellite operator, Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) of Moscow, around $300 million for services related to Eutelsat use of RSCC satellites.

Russia needs cash, which is why they need their partnership with Arianespace, which has brought them a lot of cash over time. Their problem is that the money owed the Yukos oil company shareholders has allowed those shareholders to put liens on any Russian earnings in Europe, which has only increased Russia’s financial bind. If Russia can’t get its hands on its Arianespace earnings, then it really makes no sense for them to continue the partnership. Better to threaten to pull out with the hope that the threat will maybe force payment.

Moreover, Russia might also be realizing that it cannot at present afford to participate in ExoMars and is looking for a way to get out of that commitment. This money dispute gives them that out.

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Arianespace launches 5 satellites with Vega rocket

The competition heats up: Arianespace today used its Vega rocket to launch 5 commercial satellites from its spaceport in French Guiana.

Designated Flight VV07, the mission was Vega’s seventh since beginning operations in 2012 (all seven of which were successful), and it further demonstrated the capabilities of a light-lift vehicle that completes Arianespace’s launcher family – joining the company’s medium-lift Soyuz and heavyweight Ariane 5 in reliable side-by-side operations from the Spaceport in French Guiana. Vega is provided to Arianespace by Italy’s ELV S.P.A., which is the industrial prime contractor.

Tonight’s success also marked the first time since entering its commercial phase that Vega carried passengers on a single launch for two customers/users that are from outside the European market: Terra Bella is a Google company and the four SkySat satellites are its initial payloads entrusted to Arianespace; while PerúSAT-1 was orbited under a turnkey agreement between Airbus Defence and Space and Peru’s CONIDA national space agency.

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ESA/Airbus Safran deal finalized

The competition heats up: The European Space Agency today gave its final approval to the deal that will have Airbus Safran Launchers design, build, and essentially own the new Ariane 6 rocket that ESA hopes to use to compete in the launch market in the 2020s.

This deal essentially closes the book on Arianespace. Though it officially still exists, it will be Airbus Safran that will be running the show in the future.

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