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Faced with stiff competition in the launch market, Europe struggles to come up with a competitive replacement for Ariane 5

Faced with stiff competition in the launch market, Europe struggles to come up with a competitive replacement for Ariane 5

“I strongly believe we have to decide, as quickly as possible, to develop a new-generation launcher to be competitive in the market as it is forecast, and with the competitors,” [ESA Director General Jean-Jacques] Dordain said at the Berlin air show last month, a reference to new launch vehicle developments in India, China and the U.S., where Space Exploration Technologies’ low-cost Falcon 9 is challenging the global launcher market.

While space cadets might argue about launch prices till the cows come home, the actual competitors in the industry know better: SpaceX’s low prices are real and are forcing everyone to find ways to lower costs or lose business.

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.

One comment

  • If you just need to put mass in orbit, the differences between Falcon 9 and Ariane 5 are almost a wash: Falcon costs half as much but can only lift half as much as the Eurorocket. If you don’t need to put so much aloft, then Falcon is the better deal.

    What the ESA knows is that Falcon Heavy will be the real game changer. With expected first flight in the next couple of years, and operational status maybe a couple of years after that, Heavy will be on the market at about the same time an Ariane 6 would be operational. That’s if the Europeans get their act together quickly, and no major development problems crop up. None of the people quoted in the article seems real optimistic about that.

    If both programs come to fruition, the ESA is still going to have a couple of major problems: their launcher will be far outclassed in terms of lift capability to any orbit, and they’ll need at least six launches per year to stay solvent, whereas Space X estimates they can get by on four Heavy launches annually. Space X will have a couple of launchers to meet customer needs, where the ESA will only have one. Barring major flaws with the Falcon family, it may be that the Europeans have already been effectively shut out of the commercial launcher market.

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