Arianespace offers Proton replacement

The catastrophic failure of a Russian Proton rocket has brought arch-rival Arianespace out with fighting talk, saying that if customers want it could offer another Ariane launch or two to its manifest.

Given that – as a rule – an Ariane rocket launches two satellites at a time, this could rescue 4 waiting satellites between the end of this year and 2014.  The Proton failure means some weeks, and possibly months, of delay affecting billions of dollars worth of launch satellites.

Proton is a heavy-weight lifting machine, capable of launching satellites weighing up to 6000 kgs, which is why it has been booked to launch 3 giant Inmarsat craft as well as satellites for SES, Sirius-XM and Turksat.

And there’s another worry. SES is a pioneer commercial operator with a launch booked aboard Elon Musk’s SpaceX system. It will debut its Falcon 9 rocket this summer with an SES satellites (and followed by a Thai craft. SpaceX has 7 commercial launches booked.

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