It is not being called a ‘strike’ but there are serious problems in terms of building the already delayed production of the Ariane 6 rockets.
The European Space Agency (ESA) reportedly wants this next-generation Arianespace rocket available for flights by the end of 2020 or early 2021. An inaugural Ariane 6 test flight is supposed to take place around the middle of 2020. The very last Ariane 5 launch is scheduled to take place next year.
There exists a confirmed order for 14 Ariane 6 rockets which are due to supply launches for commercial and scientific satellites scheduled for 2021-2023. Ariane 6 is likely to cost about 40 per cent less to build than the current Ariane 5.
A meeting in Marseille by ESA on March 21st was supposed to mediate what is now described as a “stand-off” between Europe’s launch industry – dominated by the Safran/Airbus builders – and its main clients.
Industry newsletter Space Intel Report (SIR) says that the builders are reluctant to commit capital to the 14-rocket order without firm commitments from its launch clients. This, says the SIR report, has been the case for the past year or more.
At the meeting ESA it was decided that Director-General Jan Woerner and his team would meet with industry officials over the next three weeks in an attempt to find a way forward, and to report back to a special ESA council meeting set for April 17th.