Europe’s satellite makers want Ariane 6

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Europe’s six biggest satellite makers have written Arianespace to demand that the company build its next generation Ariane 6 rocket by 2019 or face a significant loss of business.

Given the advent of electric propulsion and the dramatic launch-cost reduction offered by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the operators say, the new Ariane 6 needs to be in service by 2019 or face the risk that Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium will be permanently sidelined. The letter was signed by six members of the European Satellite Operators Association. Signatories included the chief executives of Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat, Inmarsat, Hispasat and HellasSat.

This letter is clearly intended to help prod Arianespace into making a decision on whether to build a new rocket, Ariane 6, or upgrade Ariane 5. Right now the company’s partners have been unable to come to an agreement about what to do.



  • Robert Clark

    This irritates the heck out of me. The right decision is obvious. You have to take the commercial space approach to have any chance of competing with SpaceX on launch prices. But just as with the U.S. space program the Europeans have been doing it the old way with huge and bloated labor dependencies in so many states, i.e., countries in the case of Europe, for so long, that they can’t break themselves from the old way of doing things.
    I’m beginning to think the only way commercial space is going to have any success in Europe is if someone like Elon Musk comes along in Europe who tries to get an independent privately funded launch system developed. SpaceX was able to do it in four years. There is no doubt in my mind an creative, innovative individual in Europe could do it in the same time or less.

    Bob Clark

  • Competential

    It won’t happen in Europe. The US has a unique entrepreneurial culture. Any european who wants to create a great company, goes to the US to do it.

    The solution is to not develop any new launcher. Just buy SpaceX’s services and invest in something where they can be competitive.

  • wodun

    “Given the advent of electric propulsion”

    How does this effect the need for a new launcher?

  • Electric propulsion on satellites is allowing satellite makers to significantly reduce their size and weight, which means a smaller rocket (like Falcon 9) can do the job much more efficiently than the Ariane 5, which is designed to loft two satellites into orbit, with one being a heavier older designed satellite.

    To compete effectively Arianespace’s next primary rocket must be designed for these lighter satellites.

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