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ESA approves taking the Vega-C rocket away from Arianespace

The council that runs the European Space Agency (ESA) today approved a resolution that shifted ownership of the Vega-C rocket away from government-run Arianespace and giving it back to its builder, the Italian aerospace company Avio.

Arianespace and Avio have agreed that Arianespace will remain the launch service provider and operator for Vega and Vega-C launch services until Vega flight 29 (VV29), scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2025. For Vega-C launches following VV29, the customers who have already contracted with Arianespace will be offered the possibility to transfer their contracts to Avio as the new launch service provider and sole operator of Vega.

Arianespace will primarily focus with ArianeGroup on the Ariane 6 exploitation to best meet the customer needs.

The council also agreed with France’s plan to allow independent commercial rocket startups to launch from French Guiana. Control of that spaceport has also been taken from Arianespace and returned to its owner, the French space agency CNES.

Essentially, this decision ties Arianespace’s future to Ariane-6, which is likely to disappear once its present manifest of launches, mostly for Amazon’s Kuiper constellation, gets launched.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.


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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Edward

    Do I understand this correctly?

    1: Arianespace told the ESA that they needed more control of the manufacturing in order to make the Ariane VI competitive.

    2: ESA gave them far too little control, so the new rocket is not competitive.

    3: Arianespace is being rewarded for its foresight by losing control of virtually everything it does, except for the already-obsolete brand-new rocket.

    Who didn’t they sleep with, resulting in the path to oblivion?

  • Edward: Actually you got a basic fact wrong. Arianespace resisted this shift to private enterprise. ArianeGroup, the joint partnership of Airbus and Safran, and the builder and owner of Ariane-6, demanded more control. ESA and the EU gave it to ArianeGroup, making Arianespace more irrelevant. In that deal ArianeGroup was given the freedom to pick its own subcontractors, rather than being forced to spread that work around within ESA. This reduced the costs quite a lot.

    However, ArianeGroup also agreed with Arianespace officials that reusability was a pipe dream and wouldn’t work, so it designed Ariane-6 as an expandable rocket. Even with the above savings, it still left the rocket non-competitive in today’s market, as proven by the Eumetsat decision last week.

    Do a search of Btb for ArianeGroup and Ariane-6, and look at posts from the 2014-2017 time period.

    As for Arianespace, as ESA shifts more and more to relying on private independent companies, it becomes more and more irrelevant. Right now its only job is acting as the management of the French Guiana launch facilities as well as managing launches of Ariane-6 for ArianeGroup. Since France has taken back ownership of French Guiana from Arianespace, it could soon lose that responsibility as well (though I expect France to simply hire Arianespace to run things for it, at least for awhile).

  • Edward

    Thank you, Robert.

    It seems my memory fades, on this topic, although I do remember that they stuck to the widely held belief, at the time, that reusable boosters would prove to not be economically practical. Falcon 9 was already the low cost leader, but SpaceX had not yet demonstrated that refurbishment was economical, at least for the Falcon design.

  • Jeff Wright

    Over at the Secret Projects Forum, there are all kinds of papers about winged RLVs that never got funding due to dullards who didn’t want to spend R&D.

    That is an accusation that cannot be made against SpaceX on the Right or China son the Left.

    Rocketry is either important to you, or it isn’t.

    Europe has been stupid.

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