Arianespace’s CEO Stephane Israel, in a briefing to the French National Assembly’s Economic Affairs Committee, has stressed that Arianespace can successfully compete with arch-rival Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket system.
SpaceX has been winning a significant amount of business from Arianespace over the past few years, while Arianespace has also been challenged by lower-cost (although not always reliable) Proton rockets from Russia.
Israel told parliamentarians that because of technical problems with the Proton rockets that Arianespace and SpaceX had formed a de-facto duopoly in launching commercial satellites into orbit. Last year each company won 9 launch contracts.
Arianespace is looking to develop a new launch vehicle (Ariane-6) by 2020, and in addition achieve a 5-6 percent reduction in production and launch costs. Add in to the equation the current Euro/Dollar exchange rate and Arianespace can beat SpaceX in the open market, he said. Five or so years ago the Euro was trading at $1.35. Now its price is closer to $1.10, meaning the Euro zone is much more competitive.
Both Arianespace and SpaceX have a reputation for safe launchers. Ariane-5 has a flawless launch record over the past 10 years. SpaceX has now launched 18 times since 2010 without a significant problem.