Globalstar, Arianespace in Dispute over Launch Payments

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PARIS — Launch services provider Arianespace of Europe continues to negotiate a pricing dispute with customer Globalstar and expects to resolve the issues but will not launch Globalstar’s last group of six satellites until early 2013, Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall said Sept. 10.

Covington, La.-based Globalstar, which is rebuilding its constellation of mobile communications satellites, in early August told the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that Arianespace had threatened to stop work on the upcoming launch unless Globalstar made the demanded payments.

Arianespace, through its French-Russian Starsem affiliate, has already conducted three launches to place a total of 24 second-generation Globalstar satellites into low Earth orbit aboard Russian Soyuz rockets operated from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The fourth launch, which is key to Globalstar’s plan to restore full two-way voice service to its customers, had been scheduled for this autumn.

Briefing reporters here Sept. 10 at the World Satellite Business Week conference, Le Gall sought to downplay the argument with Globalstar, saying it is not unusual in the commercial satellite business to confront liquidity issues that require flexibility on the part of launch services providers like Arianespace.

Le Gall said Evry, France-based Arianespace still expects to perform seven launches of the Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket this year, meaning three more will occur in September, November and December.

In addition to these, Arianespace is conducting two launches of the Europeanized version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket, also from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, scheduled for October and November; and the launch earlier this year of the inaugural Vega small-satellite launcher.