Airbus Eyes Small Satellite Launcher

Airbus_Defence_and_Space_logoIt looks like Airbus may enter the already crowded field of small satellite launchers.

The Toulouse, France-based company is working on a project to build a commercial launcher for satellites ranging from less than one kilo to a few dozen kilos — the so-called CubeSats and nano satellites — used for earth exploration, defense and security, weather forecasts and Internet connections, the people said, asking not to be named because the project is not public.

The plan comes as NASA unveiled in October contracts worth $17 million with three companies, including billionaire’s Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, to help develop launchers for small satellites. Airbus’s project would give a European company a piece of the emerging mass market, the people said. Airbus officials declined to comment on any mini-satellite launcher plans.

“The market for CubeSats is going to expand, and France and Europe must be part of it, including with launchers,” Genevieve Fioraso, the French government’s point person for space matters, said in an interview. “A wise company must keep all options open and CubeSat launchers are an option.”

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