Europe’s Arianespace consortium will not seek an extension of its current
five-year, $1.4-billion government launcher aid package when European governments meet in November, Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall said Jan. 8.
In a press briefing, Le Gall said the Evry, France-based company sees no need for a renewal of the European Guaranteed Access to Space (EGAS) support structure, which since 2005 has provided some 200 million euros ($295
million) per year in price supports to offset fixed costs at Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. EGAS payments also have been used to help
Ariane 5 rocket manufacturers retool to increase their annual production rate.
Le Gall said two factors – rising commercial-launch prices worldwide
and a reorganization of Europe’s launcher sector
will permit Arianespace to do without EGAS after it expires at the end of
“We now have an Ariane 5 rocket whose design has been stabilized, and that has proved itself,” Le Gall said, adding that it is up to European governments, not Arianespace, to make the necessary investments in maintaining the Guiana Space Center.
Other government-paid efforts relating to Ariane 5 financed by the European Space Agency ( ) are likely to continue, including the Ariane 5 Research and Technology Accompaniment, or ARTA, multi
year program to monitor Ariane 5 performance and eliminate design flaws. Current ARTA funding from ESA is about 93 million euros per year.
Antonio Fabrizi, director of launchers at ESA, said in a Jan. 8 interview that the agency has no plans to extend EGAS because Arianespace is now on firmer footing compared to several years ago.
Arianespace expects to report 2007 revenue
of 940 million euros, a decline of 4.6 percent compared to 2006. Le Gall attributed the decline to the fact that while the company launched six Ariane 5 rockets in 2007 compared to five in 2006, all six of the 2005 launches were of the top-of-the-line Ariane 5 ECA version. In 2007, four Ariane 5 ECA variants were launched. The smaller Ariane 5 GS vehicle was used for two launches.
Le Gall did not give a specific profit figure but said that, as in 2006, the company expects to report a marginal profit.
In addition to higher average prices for commercial-launch contracts, Le Gall said Arianespace has been able to partly offset the decline of the U.S. dollar by signing an increasing number of contracts in euros.
Arianespace still signs most commercial contracts in U.S. dollars, he said. But Le Gall pointed out that the currency-related pressures on Arianespace were shared by its two principal competitors, of McLean, Va., and Sea Launch Co. of Long Beach, Calif., which use Russian and Ukrainian launch hardware manufactured in non-dollar-based locales.
The Arianespace-led Starsem S.A. French-Russian joint venture, which commercializes Russia’s Soyuz rockets, conducted three launches in 2007 and reported revenue
of 90 million euros, according to Arianespace. Starsem conducted two launches in 2006 and reported 70 million euros in revenue
for that year.
Launching six Ariane 5 vehicles in 2007 established a record for Arianespace that the company expects to surpass in 2008. It has scheduled seven or eight Ariane 5 launches for this year, starting with the planned late-February liftoff of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo resupply vessel to the international space station.
Le Gall said an annual rate of eight Ariane 5 launches will be the maximum expected for the foreseeable future.
“You hear people now and then talk about a launcher shortage, or a pinch in launcher supply,” Le Gall said. “The fact is that there is no launcher shortage. Our customers have always been able to get a launch with us, sometimes only a few months after the contract is signed. We currently have numerous launch-slot openings for 2010.”
According to current planning, 2008 will be the last year when Arianespace has only the Ariane 5 vehicle to launch from the Guiana Space Center. A launch pad for Russia’s Soyuz rocket is nearing completion, with an inaugural flight expected in mid-2009.
Europe’s small-satellite launcher, the Italian-led Vega rocket, is also in development. Le Gall said it is realistic to forecast Vega’s first launch in mid-2009.
said the inaugural Vega flight remains scheduled for late 2008.
“There are many pieces to the puzzle, and we have a busy year in terms of qualifying the different stages,” Fabrizi said. “But as of now we are still planning for late 2008.”