Capitalism in space: ArianeGroup today successfully tested the solid rocket booster that it will use on both its Ariane 6 and Vega-C rockets in the 2020s.
The test success is good news for ArianeGroup, but this quote is actually more significant:
A compromise reached in May by European Space Agency members funding launch vehicle development will keep production of the P120C in Italy, allowing Avio to produce up to 35 boosters annually. A previous arrangement would have split production between Colleferro, Italy-based Avio and MT Aerospace of Augsburg, Germany.
The economies of scale provided by using the same booster for two rockets and concentrating production in one place are a key aspect of reducing the price for Ariane 6 missions by 40 to 50 percent compared to the Ariane 5 in use today.
Faced with stiff competition from SpaceX, the European Space Agency (ESA) gave ArianeGroup the power to structure operations more efficiently rather than cater to the pork desires of the agency’s many member nations.
Whether either Ariane 6 or Vega-C can compete with SpaceX’s reusuable rockets however remains doubtful. I expect that almost all of ArianeGroup’s customers in the next decade will be ESA member nations, required to buy its more expensive services.
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