New joint venture to build Ariane 6

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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.



  • Clay Mowry

    Arianespace has been around for 34 years and has never built the launch vehicles it operates. Today Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor for the Ariane 5 and SAFRAN builds the engines. Together, Airbus and SAFRAN own over 40% of Arianespace. Arianespace buys the Ariane 5 launch vehicles from Airbus, integrates the satellites and fairing, then launches the satellites in orbit. Arianespace actually operates three launch systems – Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega – all built buy different prime contractors. In the future, Arianespace will operate Ariane 6, Soyuz and Vega-C.

  • Thank you for the clarification. Based on the news reports I’ve read, I still wonder if the new deal for Ariane 6 will give the Airbus/SAFRAN joint venture more say in operations. It appears that it does. Can you speak to that?

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