Letter: Misstating the Capability of Ariane 5

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The Space News story “Arianespace Faces Multiyear Struggle Stacking Heavier Payloads on Ariane 5” [Sept. 26, page 1] was factually wrong on two key points.

First, the article wrongly states that Ariane 5 has a “current limit of a combined 9,000 kilograms for two satellites.” The reporter used only the demonstrated lift capability to establish this limit.

Past launch history does not indicate the actual performance capability of the Ariane 5. It is now commonplace for the Ariane 5 to exceed past lift performance marks as we continue to pair and launch ever-larger geostationary satellites. Based on our track record, and the thorough knowledge of our launch system, we have complete confidence that the Ariane 5 can easily launch an additional 500 kilograms above the figure used in the article.

In fact, Arianespace has been actively marketing dual-launch capability up to 9,300 kilograms delivered to geostationary transfer orbit for several years now. In addition, the release of conservative margins over time will allow us to sell 9,500 kilograms of performance with Ariane 5 beginning in 2012.

Such performance enhancement easily allows Arianespace to pair large 6,300-kilogram satellites and smaller 3,200-kilogram satellites in a dual launch, as well as two medium-sized satellites up to 4,750 kilograms.

Our customers clearly have confidence in the Ariane 5’s capability to perform dual-launch missions. They demonstrate their faith in our ability to pair their satellites for future launches because they continue to sign multiple launch contracts with us for satellites weighing as much as 6,300 kilograms.

While we are fond of saying that launches speak louder than words, in this case, contracts speak louder than words, as the world’s leading satellite operators continue to place orders for dual launches on Ariane 5.

Second, the article erroneously used an example of a satellite where Arianespace supposedly had difficulties finding a co-passenger. Without revealing any proprietary contractual details, I can assure you that this simply is not the case.

Space News should take more care in learning the facts regarding launch vehicle performance and scheduling before making broad, sweeping statements about Arianespace’s ability to execute contracts we have made with our customers.

We have launched the Ariane 5 system nine times with 17 payloads in a 12-month period on two occasions in the past eight years, demonstrating the vehicle’s responsiveness and flexibility. In the first nine months of 2011 alone, the Ariane 5 launched three times the number of satellites as all of our competitors combined.

The problems that Space News suggests in the story simply do not exist. We hope future reporting will take more care with the facts before reaching conclusions that could mislead readers of your publication.

 

Jean-Yves Le Gall
Chairman and CEO, Arianespace
Evry
, France