Italy switches from Arianespace to SpaceX for launch contract

Capitalism in space: Because of the two recent launch failures of Arianespace’s Vega rocket (built mostly in Italy), the Italian space agency (ASI) has decided to take the launch of an Earth observation satellite from Arianespace and award the launch contract instead to SpaceX.

The article at the link describes in detail the history and politics that make this decision significant. Essentially, because Arianespace in the past decade has failed to meet the challenge of SpaceX, so that its launches continue to be more expensive, this government-subsidized business has tried to force nations in the European Space Agency (ESA) to use Arianespace rockets via political agreements.

With this decision Italy is defying that pressure, which in turn is going to increase the pressure on Arianespace to finally step up its game, or die from lack of business. For example, when the ESA agreed to have Arianespace build its next generation rocket, the Ariane 6, it failed to require it to be reuseable. The Ariane 6 rocket was therefore designed as an expendable rocket, which meant that right from the start it could not compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9. It has therefore failed to win launch contracts.

Expect the Ariane 6 to continue to fade as the years pass, simply because the bureaucrats in ESA and Arianespace refused to take their competition seriously.