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Arianespace revenues flat, but busy year ahead

January 11, 2021

By Chris Forrester

Arianespace carried out a total of 10 launches in 2020: three by Ariane 5, five by Soyuz and two by Vega. This was one more than in the previous year, despite the pandemic’s impact. Out of these 10 launches, seven were purely commercial.

However, revenue was flat at €1.23 billion but Arianespace says it now has a contracted backlog of some €3.6 billion split 60 per cent towards commercial launches and 40 per cent for government/science missions and that there would be “balanced financials” for 2020. CEO Stephane Israel says that Arianespace could launch as many as 12 missions for OneWeb this year using both French Guiana and Russia launch facilities.

Arianespace listed all of last year’s successes, which is understandable, but also issued a strong demand for more European support in order to combat what Israel called American competition “with no precedent”.

Israel quoted the amount of cash flowing into US launchers including SpaceX which exceeded the combined spend of the European Space Agency, European Union and space-related national efforts in Europe. He constantly referred to SpaceX as Arianespace’s main competitor.

Arianespace also confirmed that its new Ariane 6 launcher would make its debut flight during Q2/2022 and this would “unlikely” to be carrying a geostationary satellite.

Last year also saw three unprecedented achievements, reflecting Arianespace’s ability to address changing market conditions: the launch of three satellites into geostationary transfer orbit by a single Ariane 5; the first European rideshare mission, utilizing a Vega launcher to orbit 53 small satellites (a mission supported by the European Space Agency and the European Commission); along with three Soyuz launches within one month from two different launch bases, including the first commercial launch from the new Russian cosmodrome in Vostochny, performed for the OneWeb constellation.

These operations generated sales of €1 billion for 2020, approximately the same amount as the previous year.

Arianespace consolidated the order backlog for its family of launchers (Ariane 5, Ariane 6, Soyuz, Vega, Vega C), by signing contracts with the following customers: Intelsat, for the launch of three C-band satellites, including two on Ariane 5 and one on Ariane 6; Eutelsat, with the launch of its new-generation Eutelsat-10B satellite on Ariane 5, and confirmation of three options on Ariane 6 defined within the framework of a contract signed in 2018; OneWeb, acquired by the British government and the Indian telecoms operator Barthi, confirmed its order for 16 Soyuz launches, with the first already carried out on December 18th 2020.

Along with these commercial orders, Arianespace won two major institutional contracts: one with the European Commission in a preliminary order for four Ariane 62 launches to orbit eight Galileo satellites starting in 2022; and another with the European meteorological satellite organization, Eumetsat, which confirmed its selection of Ariane 6 to orbit its second MTG-I third-generation imaging satellite. Eumetsat also joined European agency and institutional signatories of the “Joint statement on the institutional exploitation of Ariane 6 and Vega C,” which supports a preference for European launchers on European institutional missions.

Arianespace has launched nearly 800 satellites since 1980 for more than 100 customers from around the world, both commercial and institutional, thus making a major contribution to our understanding of space, safeguarding our planet and improving telecommunications and navigation to make life better on Earth. Arianespace currently operates Ariane, Soyuz and Vega launchers from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana (South America) and – in partnership with Starsem – the Soyuz launcher from the Russian cosmodromes in Baikonur and Vostochny. Arianespace will soon be operating the new-generation launchers developed by ESA: Vega C beginning in 2021; and Ariane 6 starting in 2022.

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