Arianespace complains over SpaceX “low prices”

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Arianespace’s CEO Alain Charmeau says Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket system is too cheap, and could end up forcing Europe’s highly-prized Ariane rocket system out of business.

Arianespace is already designing much lower cost rockets (in particular its Ariane 62 versions due to test fly around 2020-2021). Ariane also uses lower cost Vega (from Italy) and Russia’s Soyuz-ST rockets.

Charmeau’s predecessor Jean-Yves le Gall said that the typical cost of today’s giant Ariane 5 rocket (which can carry two commercial satellites into orbit) was $137 million without subsidies.

Charmeau’s target, he told German news magazine Der Spiegel, is to see the new Ariane 6’s small versions available to the market for €70 million (about $82m) which is still significantly more that SpaceX currently charges for a Falcon 9 launch (about $62-65 million depending on cargo).  The Ariane 6 heavier version (A-64) will ‘retail’ at a target cost of €115 million (about $134m).

In his Der Spiegel interview, Charmeau said that SpaceX’s true costs were around $100 million for projects connected with the US government, which was too much – and implying that its major US clients (including NASA) were subsidising SpaceX’c commercial rates.

A recent report carried by the NASDAQ stock exchanged (and quoting Motley Fool’s Rich Smith) says that the extra governmental fees, of around $40 million per launch) cover the inevitable “Red Tape” of extra hoops and hurdles that are needed to be managed when dealing with governmental contracts.


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