Tag Archives: Arianespace

Ariane 5 launches two satellites

Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket today successfully placed two communications satellites in orbit, its first launch since January when the rocket placed two satellites in the wrong orbit.

Arianespace did launch a Soyuz rocket in the interim, but this launch signals the return to flight for Ariane 5.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

10 China
7 SpaceX
4 Russia
3 Japan
3 ULA
3 Europe

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Arianespace successfully places four communications satellites in orbit

Using a Russian Soyuz rocket and launching from French Guiana Arianespace today successfully launched four communications satellites.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

7 China
5 SpaceX
3 Japan
3 ULA
2 Russia
2 Arianespace

For the purpose of these rankings, I consider the Soyuz rocket, launched from French Guiana, an Arianespace vehicle, since it is marketed, assembled, and launched by that company.

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Today’s Ariane 5 launch NOT a failure

Arianespace’s first launch attempt in 2018 appears to have gotten the satellites into orbit, even though contact was lost during launch.

From the reports, it appears that contact was lost when the second stage began firing.

Before this, the Ariane 5 had completed 83 straight successful launches, a track record that Arianespace repeatedly touted as justification for its higher rates.

Update: Arianespace is now saying that though they had entirely lost contact with the rocket after the second stage fired, the satellite’s themselves reached orbit.

A few seconds after ignition of the upper stage, the second tracking station located in Natal, Brazil, did not acquire the launcher telemetry. This lack of telemetry lasted throughout the rest of powered flight.

Subsequently, both satellites were confirmed separated, acquired and they are on orbit. SES-14 and Al Yah 3 are communicating with their respective control centers. Both missions are continuing.

It appears that the SES-14 satellite can reach its planned orbit using its own engines. Al Yah 3’s status is less certain.

If these results hold up, I will then declare, for the purpose of my 2018 launch standings, that this launch is a success for Arianespace. Arianespace however will certainly not consider it so, and will need to figure out why it lost contact with its rocket and why the upper stage did not function as planned.

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Arianespace orders last ten Ariane 5 rockets

Capitalism in space: Arianespace yesterday announced that it has purchased the last ten Ariane 5 rockets as part of the company’s transition to its new Ariane 6 rocket in 2020.

These rockets appear to be for launches from 2020 to 2023, during a time period when they will be testing Ariane 6 and initiating its first operational flights.

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Arianespace aims for 14 launches in 2018

The competition heats up: Arianespace officials told reporters today that it plans to complete 14 launches in 2018, which would be a record for the company.

For 2018, the company is targeting seven launches of the Ariane 5 model, four launches for the Soyuz model and three launches of the Vega satellite launcher.

Isn’t competition wonderful? SpaceX forces everyone to lower their launch prices, and instead of going out of business, which the old rocket companies were saying would happen for decades should they be forced to drop prices, everyone gets more customers, more business, and more profits. I am shocked, shocked!

Whether Arianespace can maintain this growth however is another story. As newer rocket companies, such as Blue Origin, come on line with even lower costs, I am not sure their more expensive rockets will survive.

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Ariane 5 successfully launches 4 European GPS satellites

Capitalism in space: Using its Ariane 5 rocket Arianespace yesterday successfully placed four European Galileo GPS satellites in orbit.

This is expected to be Arianespace’s last launch for 2017. The standings for the most launches in 2017 as of today:

27 United States
18 Russia
16 SpaceX
15 China
11 Arianespace

SpaceX and Russia each have two scheduled launches, while China has one. China however does not release information about all of its upcoming launches, so it might surprise us with more.

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Europe finally begins to realize that reusability cuts costs

Capitalism in space: Faced with stiff and increasing competition from SpaceX, European governments are finally beginning to realize that their decades of poo-pooing the concept of rocket reusability might have been a big mistake.

In what was likely an unexpected question during a Nov. 19 interview with Europe 1 radio, French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was asked if SpaceX meant the death of Ariane.

“Death? I’m not sure I’d say that. But I am certain of the threat,” Le Maire said. “I am worried.” Le Maire cited figures that are far from proven — including a possible 80% reduction in the already low SpaceX Falcon 9 launch price once the benefits of reusability are realized. “We need to relfect on a reusable launcher in Europe, and we need to invest massively in innovation,” Le Maire said.

Then there was a report out of Germany that has concluded that SpaceX commitment to reusability is about to pay off.

The article also cites those in Europe and with the U.S. company ULA that remain convinced that they can compete with expendable rockets. In reading their analysis, however, I was struck by how much it appeared they were putting their heads in the sand to avoid facing the realities, one of which has been the obvious fact that SpaceX has been competitively running rings around them all. This is a company that did not even exist a decade ago. This year it very well could launch more satellites than Europe and ULA combined.

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Arianespace successfully launches Morocco’s first reconnaissance satellite

Capitalism in space: Morocco’s first reconnaissance satellite, built in France, was successfully launched into orbit last night by Arianespace’s Vega rocket.

This was Arianespace’s tenth launch in 2017, one more than its total for 2016 With one more launch scheduled, it appears the company will achieve close to its desired launch rate of one launch per month, despite labor problems in the spring that shut it down for almost two months.

Increasingly, Arianespace’s business (or ArianeGroup, depending on the rocket) seems restricted to European satellites. Its market share of American satellites is more and more being taken by American companies. This doesn’t appear to be reducing the company’s overall launch rate, however, proving once again that competition is not a zero sum game. Introduce it, and instead of the players fighting over a never changing pie of business, the pie grows so that everyone is doing more.

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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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