Stéphane Israël, CEO at rocket company Arianespace, says that his Ariane 5 rockets will launch at least 5 missions this year, with each launch carrying two satellites.
Israël stresses that the overall Arianespace launch count will be much higher thanks to its smaller Vega rocket as well as the use of a ‘westernised’ Russian Soyuz craft.
He says that Arianespace has 3 firm contracts for Soyuz launches with the first scheduled for mid-February when 10 smallish satellites will be launched for Greg Wyler’s OneWeb constellation. These 10 satellites have been built at the Airbus facility in Toulouse. Airbus is involved in a joint-venture with OneWeb in a subsidiary company focussed on building smaller satellites for broadband communications.
The next Soyuz launch will be for SES-backed O3b, and will see 4 extra satellites added to the O3b fleet. The O3b launch is scheduled for March.
The third launch of Soyuz is for a pair of scientific missions.
Arianespace will make considerable use of the Russian rocket site in Kazakhstan for future OneWeb batches of satellites. OneWeb has said it is looking to ramp up its launch rate to a three-week cycle, and Israël says Arianespace is ready to meet that demand. OneWeb is planning to have about 150 satellites in orbit by the end of this year, and wants to start services once it has about 300 satellites in space.