Interview: Arianespace, Inc. President Clayton Mowry

clayton_mowryThe Arianespace website has a Q&A interview with Clayton Mowry, president of the company’s North American affiliate. In the interview reproduced below, Mowry discussed the role of the Washington, DC-based company, the region’s future needs for space access, and the decision to bring Soyuz rockets to Kourou.

Question: What are Arianespace, Inc.’s responsibilities with the telecommunications operators and satellite manufacturers?

Clayton Mowry: Arianespace, Inc. performs a valuable role by anchoring Arianespace’s presence in North America, and our team is proud to fulfill this function for both the United States and Canada markets.

We work closely in developing our business with established operators such as Intelsat, SES Americom, and Telesat, as well as new entrants that plan to introduce new communications capabilities.  Another big part of our activity is serving as a liaison between the North American satellite manufacturers and Arianespace’s technical/launch teams.

North America is a major marketplace for Arianespace: more than 50 percent of all satellites we launch are either built in the United States and Canada, or are used by satellite operators in these two countries.

Our current launch activity reflects this.  The latest successful Ariane 5 mission lofted a pair of U.S.-produced payloads: Lockheed Martin’s JCSAT-12 for SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation of Japan, and Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Optus D3 spacecraft for the Optus telecommunications provider in Australia.   Our previous Ariane 5 mission, performed in July, orbited the largest commercial satellite ever launched – TerreStar-1, which was built in the U.S. by Space Systems/Loral-built for operation by TerreStar Networks Inc., headquartered in Reston, Virginia.

The TerreStar-1 flight marked another record-setting mission for Ariane 5.  How did the vehicle’s performance contribute to the satellite’s successful start-up of operations?

Clayton Mowry: TerreStar couldn’t be happier with the precision insertion provided by Arianespace, and the flexibility we delivered for the deployment of their new satellite service.  At Arianespace, we understood the responsibility that TerreStar entrusted to us, and we are excited to have played a key role in helping another customer introduce its new business.  I accompanied TerreStar CEO Jeff Epstein and his team on their trip to the Spaceport for the launch, and they were thrilled with the experience.

Since the July 1 launch from French Guiana, TerreStar-1 has reached geosynchronous orbit and successfully deployed its 18-meter-diameter reflector, allowing TerreStar to conduct the first end-to-end telephone call with the company’s smart phones.

This is not the first time that Arianespace has helped get a new satellite operator off the ground.  What are some of the other examples?

Clayton Mowry: We’re very proud to be the launch provider of choice for companies that are orbiting an initial spacecraft to put their business in orbit.  Prior to TerreStar-1, Arianespace launched the pioneering SPACEWAY 3 broadband spacecraft for Hughes Network Systems – which we handled in 2007 during a record six-month period from contract execution to in-orbit delivery.  WildBlue also entrusted Arianespace with its initial satellite, WildBlue-1, to build out this company’s broadband satellite telecommunications network.  Our history with North American customers goes back to PanAmSat with its PAS-1 spacecraft – launched on Ariane 4’s inaugural flight in 1988.

The entire Arianespace team is committed to continue building on this record of firsts by helping other new and emerging satellite business segments with on-target launch services.

How do you see the overall North American market evolving?

Clayton Mowry: By its very nature, the North American marketplace has a strong entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to launching new, creative satellite services and developing new platforms to enable such services.  There are a number of creative companies looking to use new spectrum bands in defining innovative services for consumers and business networks.  As a result, we expect to see many of these applications giving life to new spacecraft that will operate in the geostationary arc and from low-Earth orbit.

Arianespace is well positioned to respond with our growing launcher family.  Using the broad capabilities of the heavy-lift Ariane 5 – and soon with Soyuz from the Spaceport in French Guiana – we can deliver satellites from three to six metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit, allowing us to accommodate everything from smaller spacecraft such as the STAR 2 and A2100 series all the way up to the heavyweight LS-1300 and Boeing 702 satellites.

When the lightweight Vega enters service, we’ll have a modern, tailor-made launcher for the institutional market.   Initially, it will be focused on missions for space agencies across Europe.  But there certainly is a market for governmental spacecraft – not only in Europe but around the world, and there may be requirements in North America for scientific and research missions that could be well served by Vega once it is established at the Guiana Space Center.

Bringing Soyuz to the Spaceport has been an Arianespace priority.  How will the world’s longest operating launch vehicle contribute to the company’s mission capabilities from the world’s most modern launch facility?

Clayton Mowry: Soyuz provides added flexibility and additional schedule assurance to our customers.  For satellites weighing up to three metric tons – a category for which we are seeing steady, growing demand – we will be able to launch such payloads on either Ariane 5 or Soyuz.

Soyuz also will be key to the deployment of satellite constellations such as Globalstar, O3B and Iridium.  We are looking forward to the debut launch of Soyuz from the Spaceport beginning in 2010.  I foresee that Soyuz can play a very key role as well in helping start-up companies looking for access to both geostationary orbit and low Earth orbit.

In addition to commercial telecommunications satellites, Arianespace regularly handles governmental payloads, such the German COMSATBw-1 military communications satellite on Ariane 5’s next mission.  How is security handled at the Spaceport, and what steps will be taken once Soyuz operations begin?

Clayton Mowry: The Spaceport provides world-class commercial launch facility on the territory of a NATO ally country, with a full range of security measures in place that can be tailored to the most stringent security requirements.

Working closely with U.S. authorities at the Defense and State Departments, Arianespace recently completed a security plan for Soyuz launches of satellites that incorporate U.S. technology and components.  Based on strict security arrangements provided by the Spaceport’s operator – the CNES French space agency – Arianespace will be able to ensure that such missions continue without interruption once Soyuz is in service next year.

Another new area of focus at Arianespace is using its launcher family with commercial satellites that have hosted payloads for government or institutional customers.   Such hosted payloads can help augment space situational awareness and supply additional communications bandwidth for government users, and can be handled as part of our normal, secure spacecraft processing flow at the Spaceport.