Euro Updates: Ariane 6 Price Promises, SES Embraces SpaceX & Orbital Servicing

Artist's impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Updates from the Old World: European officials say they can beat SpaceX’s launch pricing four years from now.

Europe’s next-generation Ariane 6 rocket remains on track for a 2020 first launch with a cost structure allowing the heavier Ariane 64 version to advertise per-kilogram prices below today’s Space X Falcon 9, European government and industry officials said April 6.

They said they saw no roadblocks to the 2020 first-flight date despite what they described as noncritical delays that have no impact on the rocket’s design, performance or cost targets.

These issues include a delay of several months in the ramp-up of Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), which is the Ariane 6 prime contractor, due to tax issues in France, and an extended antitrust review by the European Commission of ASL’s plan to become the dominant shareholder of the Arianespace commercial launch consortium.

Meanwhile, satellite fleet operator SES is embracing on-orbit servicing and SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9.

SES said specifically it had opened negotiations with two companies — industry officials said they are Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK’s Vivisat and MDA Corp. of Canada — “to have each extend the life of one of our satellites once their services are operational.”

The two in-orbit servicing projects take different approaches. Orbital ATK’s Vivisat launches a small vehicle that latches onto the target communications satellite and stays attached to it, providing fuel. MDA Corp. has designed an in-orbit fuel depot that would visit satellites, fuel them and then leave to service other customers….

ES has said that, for the right price, it is willing to be the inaugural customer using a refurbished Falcon 9 first stage “to show our commitment to reusable rockets.”

SES plans to launch seven satellites by late 2017– three in 2016 and four in 2017 – of which five are slated for SpaceX Falcon 9 missions, with two on Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket. The first of the seven, SES-9, was successfully launched in March aboard a Falcon 9.

  • Aerospike
  • MarcVader

    > they can beat SpaceX’s launch pricing four years from now

    Oh, facepalm. No, they cannot. Four years from now SpaceX will offer F9 flights using recovered first stages for $43 Million or less.

  • Lee

    Doesn’t matter if they can beat current SpaceX pricing. SpaceX is as much a hobby as a business for Musk. While I’m sure he’d prefer to make a profit, I’m not really sure if he cares if he does… At the risk of sounding like Burt, if Arianespace gets in a price war with him, he will bury them.

  • windbourne

    That is why they continue to say that they can beat TODAY’s spacex pricing.
    BUT, to be fair, I am sure that they are lying through their teeth on that as well.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    …and Falcon Heavy will be able “to advertise per-kilogram prices below” that of Ariane 6….although per-kg pricing is only fully relevant if your satellite is the maximum mass that the rocket can lift, else you’ll be paying the same launch price for a lighter satellite, and thus more per-kg. So, the question is, what is the full launch price of Ariane 62 and 64?, and will either be cheaper than Falcon Heavy?. We don’t know the answers to these questions, but we do have a sneaking suspicion that Arianespace will struggle to compete on price.

  • MarcVader

    > if Arianespace gets in a price war with him, he will bury them.
    I doubt that. Musk wants speceflight to become a relatively affordable commodity. Obliterating the competition is not his goal.

  • PK Sink

    “BUT, to be fair”

    🙂 Funny!

  • MrFriendly B

    And what if Arianespace doesn’t offer affordable prices?