Airbus, Safran Form Joint Venture for Ariane 6 Program

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)
Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)


Amsterdam/Paris, 3 December 2014 (Airbus/Safran PR)
– Airbus Group (stock exchange symbol: AIR) and Safran (stock exchange symbol: SAF) have announced the creation of their new Joint Venture named Airbus Safran Launchers.

With an initial workforce of around 450, starting operations on 1 January 2015, Airbus Safran Launchers will maintain the outstanding level of quality and reliability of Ariane 5, while working on a new family of state-of-the-art space launchers to foster Europe’s leading role in the space industry. The new company will bring together the expertise of both Airbus Group and Safran in space launchers at key Franco-German industrial sites. The Joint Venture’s headquarters will be located in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris.

This first transaction follows the announcement in June 2014 by Airbus Group and Safran regarding their intention to pool their respective space launcher activities to boost competitiveness and ensure the profitability of the European space launcher business in the face of growing international competition.

Airbus Group and Safran welcome yesterday’s approval by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Ministerial Conference for the development and production of a new Ariane 6 space launcher. Both companies have made a far-reaching industrial proposal for Ariane 6 and its endorsement was critical for the Joint Venture’s creation. The industry proposal naturally assumes an in-principle agreement for the transfer to the JV of shares in Arianespace held by the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, France’s space agency.

“With this Joint Venture, industry has made a strong statement and has assumed leadership to foster Europe’s autonomous access to space. Yesterday’s ESA Ministerial Conference will be remembered as the one that decided upon a new Ariane launcher family for the next decades and opened a new chapter in the way Europe conducts and manages its space ambitions. If we want to successfully counter growing international competition and prevent the risk of Europe’s space sector from being marginalized, a lot more has to be done. Therefore, we hope that this ESA Ministerial Conference serves as a catalyst to transform the way institutional space agencies operate and interface with industry in the future,” said Tom Enders, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Group.

“The creation of Airbus Safran Launchers immediately after the Ministerial Conference is much more than a symbol, it is a sign of our strong engagement and our ability to deploy our resources and meet our commitments. This is precisely what we will continue to do to ensure that all stakeholders – industry and European States – are able to pursue the remarkable success of the Ariane programme and continue to guarantee independent, reliable and competitive access to space for Europe. I strongly believe Airbus Safran Launchers will be a major worldwide player in the launcher domain, poised to capture market growth and better serve institutional as well as commercial customers. Indeed, Europe has all it needs to be in a pole position in the race for technologies, which will be, as in the past, highly beneficial for the whole aerospace industry,” said Jean-Paul Herteman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Safran.

Enders and Herteman also thanked the teams at Airbus Group and Safran who over the last months have prepared the establishment of the new company in record time. With the support of customers and shareholders, most regulatory approvals and consultations such as those from the competition authorities, Arianespace and the two Groups’ Works Councils have been completed for the transaction. Closing is expected on 31 December 2014 after completion of final formalities.

This signature launches the first, initial phase of the transaction. In a second phase, all activities of Airbus Group and Safran dealing with space launchers, will be in integrated in the Joint Venture.

Airbus Group is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2013, the Group – comprising Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space and Airbus Helicopters – generated revenues of € 57.6 billion (restated) and employed a workforce of around 138,000 (restated).

Safran is a leading international high-technology group with three core businesses: Aerospace (propulsion and equipment), Defence and Security. Operating worldwide, the Group has 66,300 employees and generated sales of 14.7 billion euros in 2013*. Working alone or in partnership, Safran holds world or European leadership positions in its core markets. The Group invests heavily in Research & Development to meet the requirements of changing markets, including expenditures of 1.8 billion Euros in 2013. Safran is listed on NYSE Euronext Paris and is part of the CAC40 index.

* Sales in 2013 restated for the impacts of IFRS11 amounted to 14.4 billion euros.

  • Matt

    In my view, the formation of this joint venture is a bad thing for a more commercial space industry in Europe. Why shall a German based new launcher company need France to build an own space launcher? SpaceX has demonstrated that this task can be accomplished by about 2000 thousand employees or even less. For example. in
    Germany are three major car makers located (Daimler, BMW, VW/Porsche/Audi) with
    hundreds of thousands employees together and many other large size engineering
    companies. So the build-up of relative small COTS-type launcher company shall be no
    problem. Why does it not happen? (Also a complete Italian company could do the
    job). Clearly, because it is a political issue, it is not allowed and wished by the so called EU elite, which controls national politics in Germany.

  • Aerospike

    If governments dictate how commercial companies are created and have to operate, it is not commercial business, it is centrally planned economy.

    SpaceX started out of it’s own. They would not be were they are today without NASA contracts, but they started on their own.

    If there is no comparable company in Europe, then it is because of a lack of interest/confidence/willingness of people who could start such a company. It is not the purpose of ESA to create such companies. If there are legal challenges to create and operate such a business, then the EU might want to take a look into those issues and change the regulatory framework. But since there are numerous companies that operate in that field, I doubt that such problems exists. It is more a lack of interest and inspiration for space in Europe.

    Airbus and Safran are the companies that are behind the current proposal for Ariane 6. So it is no surprise at all, that they will form this joint venture to build it.

    btw. I encourage you to go back and watch the Press Conference after the ESA Ministerial Meeting (again). They seemed to indicate that they will give

    design authority for the future launchers to industry. This might not be the same thing as a COTS competition, but it is a move into the right direction.
    You’ll also note, that the P120 solid motors to be shared by Ariane 6 and the upgraded Vega-C, are pretty much the only design requirement that seems to be set into stone for the new launchers. For example they talked about continuing the efforts done under the Ariane 5 ME program and did not say “you have to use the Ariane 5 ME upper stage”. (Of course, there is no alternative to the Vinci engine availabe in Europe at the moment!).
    And the only thing that seems to be required for the 1st stage is that it should be cryogenic.

    It really depends on how you look at the current situation. Seen from one angle, it looks a lot like SLS, but from another angle (and if you squint your eyes) there are first signs of going towards a COTS like, commercial approach.

  • Tonya

    Well the EU does not decide space policy, ESA is an intergovernmental organisation entirely outside its control. What EU policies do you believe prohibit the formation of a private space company?

  • Matt

    It is the
    principal background decision (in relation to the trial to build a centralized European state), made by German political
    elite not to have a significant space program and despite subordinate more or
    less all major space activities to ESA (or to a new EU space “governmental” body).
    It is also widely known that in the aftermath of WWII it was not allowed for
    Germany to design and build larger rockets on its own, which exceed a certain, larger
    size.

    Those are some of the reasons why France is now the major player in Western
    Europe in field of space launcher and not Germany, even if “Germany” (Airbus is more a less a French dominated company in view) may deliver important
    major components or the Arianne’s small upper stage. Therefore, due this political
    constellation it seems to me very difficult to find in Germany support by DLR
    or by German Government in order to build a launcher SpaceX-type launcher
    company. This can be only changed by a completely new politics and German
    government, which try to reach again own sovereignty.

  • Tonya

    Oh dear, I assume you’re an AfD supporter? I was hoping for something interesting.

    You’ve shaped an argument based on your political beliefs, so there isn’t much to talk about. Your objective will be to promote your political view using space policy as the medium and I have no interest in that. You’re using commercial space as a proxy argument for nationalism.