International Launch Services (ILS), which is the US-based marketing arm of the Baikonur, Kazakhstan rocket launching operation, has been forced to cut prices to its customers following worries over insurance costs.
The news emerged at the Satellite 2013 conference in Washington, where ILS’ recently appointed president and CEO Phillip Slack said that the three Proton launch failures over the past two years had caused the insurance industry to put their rates up for any Proton rocket launch.
“A year ago we were within one-quarter or one-half a point of Ariane,” Slack said of ILS’s main competitor, Arianespace. “We would be a couple of points higher today,” he admitted. “We obviously needed to respond to market pressure. We expect to be able to bring those rates back down with seven Proton launches in the next six months.”
That commitment is a heavy obligation, and if ILS is to regain its competitive advantage it must fulfil those launches flawlessly. Some of its clients are already complaining about launch delays caused by the December failure. “Customer confidence is returning,” Slack said. “We need a string of launch successes, and we think when this happens Proton will win back the confidence of the market.”
The next launch on ILS’ manifest is for Mexico’s SatMex 8, likely on March 27. That launch, if all goes well, will be followed by the launch of Telesat’s Canadian Anik G1 craft in mid-April