Indecision in Europe about their future commercial rocket

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The competition is burning them up! With Germany and France unable to come to an agreement about the next Arianespace commercial rocket, the company is considering cancelling a December conference that was supposed to settle the issue.

The basic division remains despite the German government’s alignment with the French view that Europe needs a lower-cost rocket to maintain its viability in the commercial market — which in turn provides European governments with a viable launch industry.

Despite the consensus over the longer term, the two sides remain split on whether European Space Agency governments should spend 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) to complete work on a new upper stage for the existing Ariane 5 rocket, which could fly in 2018-2019, or abandon the upgrade to focus spending on a new Ariane 6 rocket, whose development would cost upwards of 3 billion euros over 7-8 years. [emphasis mine]

Though SpaceX is not mentioned in this particular article, numerous previous articles on this subject (such as this one) have made it very clear that it is SpaceX’s low prices that are driving the need for Arianespace to cut costs. The problem, as this article makes very clear, is that Arianespace’s partners can’t figure out how to do it, at least in a manner that will still provide them all an acceptable share in the pie. The result might be that the entire partnership falls apart.



  • Robert Clark

    The only way they are going to be able to compete with SpaceX is if they follow the commercial space approach as did SpaceX.
    If they do then France and Germany would not have to agree. Since this cuts as much as 90% off the development cost, they could each afford to develop their own independent Ariane 6 launcher.

    Bob Clark

  • ken anthony

    Vision certainly becomes important when lead times are involved!

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