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Arianespace is not having the best of times. Despite an unblemished record of more than 50 totally successful satellite launches aboard its massive Ariane 5 rocket, it is under extreme pressure to look extremely hard at its manufacturing processes and reduce launch prices to the commercial sector.
Arianespace’s CEO, Stephane Israel, speaking at Satellite 2014 event in Washington, has promised to look hard at its competitiveness, but also made a strong demand that the USA opens up its own market to non-US companies.
“Unfortunately, it is not completely open here in the United States – and Arianespace is fully ready to compete in the institutional markets everywhere – including the US,” he said. “We are quite sure we would be in a position to offer the best solutions for customers and the taxpayers.
And if it comes to a question of employment, we are ready to see how we can ‘Americanise’ our launcher.”
Israel noted that Arianespace continues to target a potential record number of missions in 2014 – with up to 12 missions involving its family of heavy-lift, medium and light-lift launchers. He underscored that each of these vehicles – the Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega – are planned to handle both institutional and commercial launches during the year. Moreover, there were even suggestions from him that Arianespace would be prepared for a US-Ariane joint-venture launcher to emerge as an ‘Americanised’ version.
However, the threat to Arianespace’s core commercial business comes from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and the satellite show heard Gwynne Shotwell, CEO at SpaceX, say that the company’s intention was to lower prices, not raise them.
Another threat comes from Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and its H-2A rocket which has an order from Telesat of Canada to launch its Telstar-12 Vantage satellite, and at a “special low price” according to Naohiko Abe, of MHI. He added that MHI was working to drop its launch prices by up to 50 per cent by 2020.