European antitrust authorities appear poised to withhold immediate approval of the purchase by Airbus Safran Launchers of the French government’s stake in launch-service provider Arianespace pending an investigation that could last for several months, European industry officials said.
The company designing Europe’s next-generation Ariane 6 rocket – to be integrated horizontally, not vertically as previous Ariane vehicles — expects to submit a firm, fixed-price bid for a first batch of rockets by the end of this year, the company’s chief executive said Jan. 28.
Europe’s Airbus Safran Launchers joint venture company, which is leading development of the Ariane 6 rocket, has fallen behind schedule as it awaits a ruling by French tax officials on an expected cash payment from Safran to Airbus.
The French government will be able to maintain a firm oversight role over the Arianespace launch consortium despite the government’s agreement to sell its 35-percent stake in the company to Airbus Safran Launchers, the president of the French space agency, CNES, said.
The French government on June 10 confirmed that the Arianespace launch-service consortium ultimately would be controlled by Airbus Safran Launchers following the sale of the French government’s share in Arianespace.
Airbus Safran Launchers, which is building Europe’s next-generation Ariane 6 rocket, on May 29 said it had agreed to contribute 400 million euros ($440 million) to the development contract it expects to sign with the European Space Agency in July.
Airbus Safran Launchers has submitted its formal bid to design and build the Ariane 6 rocket, a contract to be valued at around 3.2 billion euros that the European Space Agency hopes to sign by the end of June.