Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel

LE BOURGET, France — Europe’s Arianespace commercial launch consortium expects to purchase 18 new Ariane 5 heavy-lift rockets and five Vega small-satellite launch vehicles this year, Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel said June 18.

Speaking here at the Paris Air Show, Israel said Arianespace is also negotiating with the Russian government to extend the current agreement under which Russian Soyuz medium-lift rockets are launched from Europe’s Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America.

Arianespace officials said between five and eight additional Soyuz vehicles likely will be purchased to meet Arianespace’s anticipated demand of three Soyuz rockets per year through the end of the decade. The Soyuz agreement involves Arianespace, Soyuz prime contractor Samara Space Center of Russia, and the Russian and French governments.

Arianespace relied on a European Investment Bank loan to finance its initial Soyuz purchases. Israel did not detail the company’s financing plans but said the simultaneous order of Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega rockets would not stretch the company’s financing capability.

Evry, France-based Arianespace also hopes to increase the cadence of Vega launches to three per year, starting in 2015, assuming that the price to Arianespace of each Vega rocket permits the vehicle to secure a footing in the global market for launching Earth observation and science payloads.

Israel said Arianespace, which has signed eight launch contracts for geostationary-orbiting telecommunications satellites this year, probably will report slightly lower revenue for the year compared with 2012.

The company reported 2012 revenue of 1.33 billion euros ($1.73 billion), with a profit of 1.7 million euros after a contribution of 70 million euros from the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA). ESA makes annual contributions to Arianespace to offset fixed costs and enable the company to balance its books.

For 2013, revenue is likely to be 1.2 billion euros, with a similarly small profit and an ESA contribution that will not need to exceed around 6 percent of revenue, Israel said. The lower revenue is partly the result of what is likely to be one fewer Ariane 5 launch campaign in 2013 compared with 2012.

Arianespace has asked the French space agency, CNES, and ESA to finance a modification to the current Ariane 5 ECA rocket, the Ariane 5 version used to carry two telecommunications satellites at a time into geostationary transfer orbit.

The investment would be in an expansion cylinder to be placed under the current Ariane 5 fairing to provide additional room for satellites that take up more volume under the fairing but do not necessarily weigh more.

Satellite manufacturers Space Systems/Loral and Lockheed Martin Space Systems, for example, both have demonstrated an ability to reduce the weight of their standard telecommunications satellite platforms, the LS 1300 and the A2100, respectively, to meet customer requirements.

Arianespace typically places smaller satellites in the lower position under the fairing. The larger, upper-position satellite’s weight is supported by a Sylda structure that houses the smaller satellite.

Jacques Breton, senior vice president at Arianespace, said the adaptation sought would place the expansion cylinder under the fairing to in effect increase its length without touching the fairing’s structure and separation systems.

Breton said this expansion cylinder would come in two versions: one 1 meter in height and the other 2 meters, depending on the size of the payloads. 

Breton conceded that the structure would add about 100 kilograms to the weight of the Ariane 5’s upper stage, but said Arianespace and Ariane 5 prime contractor Astrium Space Transportation have already demonstrated an ability to find weight savings in the vehicle. At any rate, he said, the expansion cylinder would be used only for those launches whose satellite payloads required the extra space.

ESA officials say they will propose that the new expansion cylinder be developed, with RUAG Space of Switzerland doing much of the work, in time to deploy it in 2015. Officials said the proposed development program would be valued at around 30 million euros.

Beyond this adaptation, Israel said Arianespace will be pushing Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport in South America to introduce efficiencies to permit Arianespace to reduce the amount of time between launches from three weeks to two.

Especially when moving from a heavy-lift Ariane 5 launch to a medium-lift Soyuz, three weeks now are needed to prepare the tracking radars and other facilities for the new launch.

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