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Faced with stiff competition from SpaceX, Europe has handed the construction its next generation rocket, Ariane 6, from Arianespace to a joint venture between the European companies Airbus and Safran.
The new venture will be dubbed Airbus Safran Launchers, and will take over as Europe’s launch company.
I had known that Airbus and Safran had proposed this venture to build Ariane 6, but until I read this press release I hadn’t realized that the agreed-to deal to build Ariane 6 means that Arianespace has essentially been fired by Europe as the company running Europe’s rocket operations. Arianespace, a partnership of the European Space Agency’s many partners, was never able to make a profit, while its Ariane 5 rocket costs a fortune to launch. They have now given the job to two private companies who have promised to rein in the costs. We shall see what happens.