Eutelsat Signs New Multilaunch Deal with Arianespace

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat said Feb. 8 it has signed a new agreement with Europe’s Arianespace consortium for up to four launches in 2016 and 2017.

The agreement is in addition to a July 2012 deal in which Eutelsat agreed to launch one, and possibly two, satellites with Evry, France-based Arianespace in 2014 and 2015.

Eutelsat’s move comes after EchoStar of Englewood, Colo., which for years had not used Arianespace and Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA heavy-lift vehicle, signed a similar multilaunch agreement.

The December failure of an International Launch Services (ILS) Russian Proton rocket — the third Proton failure in 16 months — and the Jan. 31 failure of a Russian-Ukrainian Sea Launch Zenit 3SL vehicle, both carrying commercial telecommunications satellites, appear to be driving some satellite fleet owners to long-term agreements to secure launches.

The Ariane 5 rocket, which typically carries two telecommunications satellites at a time into geostationary transfer orbit, conducted Feb. 7 its 54th consecutive successful launch.

The Ariane 5 ECA and the ILS Proton are the world’s principal carriers of commercial telecommunications satellites. Sea Launch AG of Bern, Switzerland, is trying to return to regular commercial service after a 2007 failure and subsequent bankruptcy, under the ownership of an affiliate of RSC Energia of Russia.

China’s Long March rocket has posted a high rate of success in recent years and has won the confidence of the world’s space insurance underwriters, but China’s rocket is barred by U.S. regulations from launching satellites containing most U.S. components.

With the U.S. Delta 4 and Atlas 5 vehicles devoted mainly to U.S. government launches and Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9 vehicle still proving itself, the commercial launch market is looking tight, at least for now.