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France to award four rocket startups launch contracts worth as much as 400 million euros

Capitalism in space: According to a story today at the European Spaceflight website, the French government will later this week announce contract awards to four different rocket startups worth as much as 400 million euros.

The four launch startups that will receive a combined €400 million in subsidies are HyPrSpace, Latitude, Sirius Space Services, and the ArianeGroup subsidiary MaiaSpace.

The HyPrSpace OB-1 and Latitude Zephyr rockets will be the smallest of the lot and will be capable of delivering between 100 and 200 kilograms to low Earth orbit. The Sirius 1, Sirius 13, and Sirius 15 rockets will be capable of delivering between 175 and 1,100 kilograms to orbit. The Prometheus-powered Maia rocket is expected to be the most powerful, with a payload capacity of up to three tonnes when launched in its expendable configuration.

All four companies however will only receive a small upfront payment, with the bulk of the award only paid if a company achieves a maiden launch by 2028.

That the French government is now signing deals with new private and independent launch companies and not with Arianespace, the commercial arm of the European Space Agency (ESA) that has always been dominated by the French, is a major development. Up until now most of the action encouraging independent rocket companies has come from Germany and Spain. That France has now joined the party signals the almost certain death knell to the failed two decade-long effort by Arianespace to make a profit, even when it controlled about 50% of the launch market.

Expect the government monopoly of Arianespace to fade away in the next five years. Expect it to be replaced with a thriving industry of mulitple rocket companies, all charging less and coming up with new ways to lower cost.

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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  • David Eastman

    “Expect the government monopoly of Arianespace to fade away in the next five years. Expect it to be replaced with a thriving industry of mulitple rocket companies, all charging less and coming up with new ways to lower cost.”

    Alternatively, expect most of these new startups to fail, as they are trying to do something that is difficult on it’s own, where there is currently a ton of competition worldwide for a small market, and they are trying to operate in a business and regulatory environment that is not at all friendly to startups. And after they fail, there will be lots of “we told you so, government control and ownership of big established companies was the only way.”

  • Call Me Ishmael

    Or, alternatively, expect Arianespace to fade into the background and be replaced by a new EU-selected (and subsidized) “winner”.

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