Arianespace readies for “triple play”
December 8, 2011
“Triple play” for rocket launch company Arianespace means having three sizes of rockets available to it, and thus enabling the company to launch any size of cargoes from smaller, Earth-observation satellites right up to heavyweight 20-tonne missions to the International Space Station. The smaller rockets take the shape of its Soyuz and Vega rocket systems, which will absorb some of the waiting list and improve profitability for Arianespace.
But the steady business for Arianespace continues to come in the middle of that range from the world’s satellite companies, and currently it has an impressive backlog of 21 booked launches with its ‘work-horse’ Ariane 5 rocket.
Jean-Yves Le Gall, Ariuanespace’s CEO, speaking this week in Washington, said: “Our objective is to conduct approximately six-to-seven Ariane 5 launches annually, along with two-to-four Soyuz flights and one-to-two Vega missions. This is coherent with our current order book backlog, which is composed of 21 launches for Ariane 5, along with 14 missions for Soyuz in French Guiana, and five Vega flights pre-ordered by the European Space Agency through its VERTA programme.”
Ariane 5 is itself being uprated to handle the super-heavyweight 20 tonnes cargoes, and this improved capability will not be in place for a little while yet. Meanwhile, Stage 1 of the improvement programme takes the payload to 9.25 metric tonnes. “This payload lift enhancement program is on track, and Arianespace will be able to conduct launches at this capability beginning in 2012, which once again will confirm Ariane 5 as the world’s most flexible launcher. In fact, we will be able to launch the largest satellites, accompanied by spacecraft of smaller sizes, which is to the advantage of our customers who will have the advantage of the best offer in the market,” adds Le Gall.
And the business continues to come in, despite tough competition from arch-rival ILS/Proton, as well as Chinese and Sea Launch rocket systems. “So far in 2011, Arianespace has signed 10 contracts for launches of geostationary satellites, along with one order to orbit a large scientific payload, which corresponds to six launches using the Ariane 5. In a marketplace that is stable – and with its heightened competition – this performance is absolutely remarkable. By year-end, we expect to be announcing new contracts for launches using both Soyuz and Vega. With our record of reliability – which, I want to remind everyone, includes 46 consecutive successes with Ariane 5 – along with Soyuz’ introduction in French Guiana on the planned date and the upcoming initiation of Vega operations, I am certain 2012 will be as great as 2011 was.”