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According to the former CEO of Arianespace, now head of the French space agency, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 costs significantly less to launch than the Ariane 5.
How big is the difference? Jean-Yves Le Gall, who until mid-2013 was chief executive of Evry, France-based Arianespace and is now president of the French space agency, CNES, addressed the point in Feb. 25 testimony to the French Senate. According to Le Gall, launching a satellite on an Ariane 5 costs around 100 million euros ($137 million). After subtracting the amount of European Space Agency subsidies to Arianespace, the per-satellite cost drops to about $100 million, he said.
Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX, he said, would charge $60 million to $70 million to launch the same satellite aboard the Falcon 9. In fact SpaceX has charged even less than that to its first few commercial customers.
It is for this reason that Arianespace is struggling to decide how to build its next generation rocket. They have find a way to do it cheaper, something that is very difficult for this multi-headed European conglomerate to do.