The Arianespace launch consortium will decide by the end of the year whether to invest in increasing its Ariane 5 ECA rocket-production rate to eight rockets per year from the current six.

Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall, whose industrial shareholders are the companies that build Ariane vehicles, said questions remain about the costs of investing in new soldering and other facilities that would be needed for the production increase. But near-term market demand appears to justify the move, he said. Arianespace estimates the cost to Ariane contractors would be 50 million to 100 million euros ($63 million to $126 million).

The Ariane 5 ECA rocket is designed to carry two telecommunications satellites weighing a combined 9,000 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit.