Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

 
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

ArianeGroup’s transition to Ariane 6 rocket

Link here. It appears that this transition not only includes replacing Ariane 5 with Ariane 6, but also the phase out of Russian Soyuz rockets by 2022. This loss of business is going to hurt Russia, as the government there desperately needs cash with the drop in oil prices.

The article also noted that ArianeGroup will charge two prices for Ariane 6, depending on configuration and payload, $85 million and $130 million per launch. These prices seem high, but because they likely cover the launch of two satellites, customers will be charged half these amounts, $40 million and $65 million, which is competitive in today’s market.

Will these prices be competitive in 2020s? I have my doubts. I estimate, based on news reports, that SpaceX is charging about $40 million today for a launch with a reused first stage, and $62 million for a launch with an entirely new rocket. Give them another five years of development and I expect those prices to drop significantly, especially as they shift to entirely reused first stages for almost every launch and begin to demonstrate a routine launch cadence of more than one launch per month.

This quote below explains how ArianeGroup really intends to stay alive in the launch market:

The price targets assume that European governments — the European Space Agency, the European Commission, Eumetsat and individual EU nations — agree to guarantee the equivalent of five Ariane 62 missions per year, plus at least two missions for the light-lift Vega rocket.

In other words, ArianeGroup really doesn’t wish to compete for business. It wants to use government coercion to force European space agencies and businesses to buy its product. They might get that, but the long term result will be a weak European presence in space, as everyone else finds cheaper and more efficient ways to do things.

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5 comments

  • Des

    According to esa (http://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Transportation/Launch_vehicles/Ariane) the lighter version with two solid boosters, Ariane 62, will be used mainly to launch single payloads so I don’t think it’s cost will be spread over two satellites. It looks very uncompetitive with Spacex.

  • Des: Your link doesn’t work. Can you send it again?

  • Des

    I posted it from my mobile device , here is the link from desktop browser:
    http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Transportation/Launch_vehicles/Ariane_6

    The relevant quotation is:
    “The A62, with two P120 solid boosters, will be used mainly in single-launch configurations, while the A64 – with four P120 solids – will enable double launch of medium-class satellites over 4.5–5 t, mainly for commercial market needs.”

    Dual launches are difficult to setup as they need the two satellites to be going to very similar orbits. It also usually needs co-coordinating timetables of two separate customers.

  • Des. Thank you. This fact makes it clear that ArianeGroup is not really trying to compete in the new launch market. Its new rocket is going to be more expensive than today’s launch prices, which I expect to drop even more by the time Ariane 6 finally begins operation.

  • Edward

    Des wrote: “Dual launches are difficult to setup as they need the two satellites to be going to very similar orbits. It also usually needs co-coordinating timetables of two separate customers.

    Often, Ariane’s customers go to the very popular geostationary orbit. Thus it is not so hard for them to find two satellites going there on similar timetables. There are several other orbital planes that may be more problematic.

    Robert Zimmerman wrote: “This fact makes it clear that ArianeGroup is not really trying to compete in the new launch market. Its new rocket is going to be more expensive than today’s launch prices, which I expect to drop even more by the time Ariane 6 finally begins operation.

    They may not be able to compete on price, but with SpaceX being less expensive (and if Blue Origin is also less expensive) then Ariane may be dependent upon providing overflow protection for when the wait time for a SpaceX (and Blue Origin) launch is too long for some customers.

    From the article: “This follows the decision taken at the ESA Council meeting at Ministerial level in December 2014, to maintain Europe’s leadership in the fast-changing commercial launch service market while responding to the needs of European institutional missions.

    SpaceX has greatly disrupted the launch industry, and as far as I know, only Blue Origin could possibly be on track to compete on price. SpaceX will soon have more launch pads than Arianespace, so SpaceX has an excellent opportunity to overtake Europe in launches.

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