WASHINGTON — European rocket builder ArianeGroup has named Airbus Defence and Space head of operations André-Hubert Roussel to replace Alain Charmeau as CEO starting Jan. 1.

Charmeau, 62, will stay on as special adviser to Roussel until March 31 and then retire, ArianeGroup said Nov. 26 in a press release announcing the leadership change.

“ArianeGroup is now a recognized company worldwide, and it is now Andre-Hubert Roussel who must continue the adventure to ensure the success of ArianeGroup as a competitive and innovative group, guaranteeing independent and strategic access to space for Europeans,” Charmeau said in the statement ArianeGroup issued Nov. 26. 

Charmeau held Roussel’s position at Airbus before leading the 2015 formation of Airbus Safran Launchers as a joint venture between Airbus and French engine builder Safran. The company absorbed launch service provider Arianespace in 2016 and changed its name to ArianeGroup last year.

“Alain Charmeau has been a tireless advocate of the merger of the Airbus and Safran launcher activities, overseeing the creation of ArianeGroup and building up the company while carrying out the essential, in-depth changes to the governance of the European launchers sector,” ArianeGroup’s board said in a statement. “He notably contributed to a new competitive industrial organization for development and production of Ariane 6 throughout Europe and coordinated the merger with Arianespace.”

Roussel, 53, who joined ArianeGroup’s board of directors in July, took over Airbus’ launcher division in 2014 where he helped establish the Ariane 6 program to develop a cheaper successor to Europe’s Ariane 5 workhorse rocket.

Barbara Bergmeier, a 50-year-old automotive executive, will replace Roussel at Airbus Defence and Space as head of operations. She joins the company from German automotive component supplier Dräxlmaier Group, where she was chief operating officer and an executive board member. Prior to Dräxlmaier Group, Bergmeier held various senior positions at BMW Group.

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...