PARIS — The launch service providers of Europe and Japan on June 7 agreed to investigate standardizing their satellite-preparation procedures to make it easier for satellite owners to make last-minute shifts between them.

The memorandum of understanding between Europe’s Arianespace consortium and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI) of Japan is a follow-on to the two companies’ long-standing, but little-used, “Launch Services Alliance.” The new agreement was signed in Tokyo during a summit between French President Francois Hollande and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The alliance between the two companies was intended to provide mutual backup launch services in the event one side’s vehicle — Europe’s Ariane 5 or Japan’s H-2A — was grounded.

But the Japanese vehicle’s scant presence on the commercial launch market, and the fact that the Ariane 5 rocket has continued its dominance of that market, has left the correlation of forces between the two vehicles essentially unchanged over the years. 

The launch alliance, while never being renounced, has not been much of a factor in the industry, and Arianespace continues to launch most of Japanese fleet operators’ telecommunications satellites.

MHI in May 2012 launched its first non-Japanese customer payload, the Kompsat-3 satellite for South Korea, and in September MHI added the H-2B to its portfolio.

“We are confident that by cooperating with Arianespace we will be able to provide customers with more attractive services of higher value,” MHI Chairman Hideaki Omiya said in a statement.

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.