ArianeGroup applying launch cost reduction targets to satellite components

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WASHINGTON — To make Europe’s next-generation rocket more competitive, ArianeGroup aims to build the Ariane 6 at least 40 percent cheaper than the Ariane 5. ArianeGroup is applying the same cost targets to reflector antennas that go on geostationary satellites.

Though more well known for building rockets, the Airbus-Safran joint venture also builds satellite components through a division inherited from Airbus Defence and Space in 2015. David Greneche, ArianeGroup’s head of orbital mission-critical equipment, said ArianeGroup realized market pressure in the satellite industry would likely extend beyond the launch sector, and wanted to be prepared for that change.

“We detected some years ago that there was a radical change coming on the market primarily for satellites and satellite equipment,” he said. “We decided very early to trigger an approach in order to be able to cope with new market prices and shorter lead times.”

Greneche said ArianeGroup reached its cost goal with reflector antennas needed particularly for high-throughput and very high-throughput satellites. The company will use that cost reduction to sell reflectors below the current market price, which he estimated is roughly 800,000 euros ($895,000) per reflector.

Greneche said ArianeGroup was able to reduce the production time for the reflectors to six to nine months down from an average of 10 to 14 months by using a “design to manufacturer approach.”

Greneche said ArianeGroup sought to break away from traditional product development by hosting breakfasts where employees from across the company could gather and share ideas on how to improve the reflectors.

“We were aware that if we were applying the same development logic as we do usually in the space industry, at least in the historical space industry, we would probably take too much time to have a product ready,” he said.  

ArianeGroup received an order from Airbus Defence and Space, announced last month, for 10 reflectors for the two Eutelsat Hotbird broadcast satellites Airbus is building. Greneche said those satellites will use different reflectors than the newly developed version.