New Arianespace Chief: “Launches speak louder than words”

Stephane Israel (Credit: Arianespace)
Stephane Israel (Credit: Arianespace)

New Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël has a clear message for his customers and rivals: “Launches speak louder than words.”

Israël mentions this phrase, which is Arianespace’s unofficial motto, in a Q&A published by the company on its website.  It’s not clear precisely to whom he might be referring, but one might guess that it is a certain American entrepreneur named Elon Musk who talks a lot and whose company, SpaceX, has only a handful of launches under its belt.

SpaceX has, of course, notched a lot of launch contracts for satellites waiting to be flown. This accomplishment that has put a great deal of fear into other launch providers, not that you would know it from Israël’s answers. While it’s unlikely that Musk will suddenly stop speaking as much as he does in the years ahead, SpaceX will have a lot more launches that will speak to the company’s reliability and accuracy.

Meanwhile, the Europeans have a two-part plan to meet the threat posed by this challenger whose name is seldom spoken.  Part one involves upgrading the current Ariane 5 rocket to launch the heaviest communications satellites. The upgraded rocket will continue to be launched alongside the Soyuz medium-lift rocket and the new Vega light launch vehicle to serve a broad range of clients.

The second part of the plan is to build an entirely new rocket, Ariane 6, that would be able to launch a variety of payloads. This would be the most direct response to SpaceX, although the launch vehicle won’t be ready until around 2021.

While we await the outcome of that titanic struggle, enjoy this interview with Arianespace’s chief.

Q&A with Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël

Question: How do you see your role as the successor to Jean-Yves Le Gall?

Answer: I am following in the footsteps of a true space sector visionary! Jean-Yves put Arianespace on the path of long-term success with his emphasis on quality and reliability – something that increasingly makes us stand out from the competitors today – in addition to the arrival of Soyuz and Vega in Kourou, joining Ariane to create a unique launch vehicle family. I wish all the best to Jean-Yves in his new position as the head of France’s CNES space agency. Along with industry and the European Space Agency, we will work closely together with him.

Question:  What are your first thoughts of Arianespace?

Answer: I am impressed by the professionalism and the enthusiasm of everyone I’ve met. Clearly, this is a company that is customer-oriented – ready to deliver on its commitments through operational expertise. There is a reason why Arianespace is the leader: the dedication to excellence, from our launch teams at the Spaceport to the commercial representatives who circle the globe; and from those at headquarters in Evry to the staff of our international offices in Singapore, Tokyo, Washington and French Guiana.

Question:  What are your near-term priorities?

Answer: First of all, I am looking forward to meeting with our customers around the world in the continuity of Jean-Yves’ action to nurture our privileged position. Also I place a particular emphasis on personal relationships, which I will actively pursue with the key players in our industry.  Another top priority is spending time at the Spaceport and seeing the entire family of Arianespace launchers in action, and listening to the feedback of all the Arianespace community in Evry and Kourou, and more generally to the entire space community that makes Arianespace a success!

Question:  How do you view Arianespace’s competitive position today?

Answer: I fully agree with Arianespace’s unofficial motto: “Launches speak louder than words.” Our customers – whether they are telecommunications satellite operators, spacecraft manufacturers, international space agencies or institutions – rely on Arianespace to deliver their payloads safely in orbit and with the accuracy demonstrated by our launcher family, mission after mission. The appreciation by the market of the value of our services is confirmed, year after year, by the commercial successes we achieve. Under my leadership, Arianespace will continue to speak with the same voice in delivering a message that is loud and clear – based on the tempo of success and willingness of excellence that have driven our company for the past three decades.