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Three European nations sign deal with Arianegroup for use of Ariane-6

In a separate deal outside of the European Space Agency, Germany, France, and Italy have signed a deal with the private rocket company Arianegroup to use its still unlaunched Ariane-6, assuming the company can reduce costs.

The agreement will provide €340 million ($365 million) of financing a year for Arianespace’s Ariane 6 rocket in exchange for a commitment to an 11% cut in costs. The rocket will also be awarded at least four missions from public institutions a year, while the lighter Vega C launcher will get at least three.

Essentially the deal is intended to keep Ariane-6 afloat, as its high cost has made it difficult to attract customers. At the same time, the contract demands those costs be reduced, and adds pressure to that demand by noting that future and additional launches will be awarded on a purely competitive bidding process. It appears these three countries will open bidding not only to the new rocket startups being developed in Europe, but American rocket companies as well.

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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  • Ian C.

    I remember how they were bullying European governments into purchasing payload space or else they’d stop building the rocket (and Europe would lose sovereign access to space). And now they brag that their order books are more than full because demand is so high. It’s delicious.

  • Edward

    Do I remember correctly? Didn’t Arianegroup want to make Ariane 6 a reusable rocket, similar to New Shepard and Falcon 9? Didn’t Arianegroup tell ESA and the European countries that reusable would be less expensive? And didn’t the European countries and their space representative, ESA, insist on an expendable rocket, because expendable was dependable?

    So now those same European countries are complaining about the expense of the rocket they insisted upon. I’m sure that there is some sort of irony in that, but for the life of me, I cannot think what it is, probably because the coffee hasn’t yet kicked in.

    Come to think of it, the U.S. Congress insisted upon an expendable super heavy lift rocket, and it, too, is too expensive for all but one space project to use, and everyone is realizing that even that project is unsustainable at the cost of that rocket (financial cost, schedule cost, cadence cost, lost opportunity cost, future political cost — no wonder government is hampering Starship development).

    On the other hand, reusability is not a guarantee of low cost, high cadence launches. New Shepard first landed on its pad before Falcon 9 did, eight years ago, but New Shepard has far, far fewer flights under its belt and a far lower launch cadence than the Falcons. However, Virgin Galactic finally seems to be (please excuse the expression) taking off.

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