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Arianespace complains over SpaceX “low prices”

June 7, 2018

By Chris Forrester

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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