World Satellite Business Week 2009: Arianespace maintains its commitment to quality and reliability
September 8, 2009
Arianespace’s Service & Solutions advantages in an increasingly challenging commercial launch marketplace are being highlighted at the World Satellite Business Week – a major gathering of the global telecommunications industry in Paris, France.
This year’s annual meeting of satellite operators, spacecraft manufacturers, financial sector representatives and service providers comes at a time when several launch companies have experienced setbacks.
Arianespace, however, remains on track for the busiest calendar year of heavy-lift launches with Ariane 5, and continues to prepare for the introduction of its medium-lift Soyuz and lightweight Vega from French Guiana. In addition, the company’s order book backlog currently stands at 33 geostationary orbit payloads in addition to seven dedicated Ariane 5 missions and nine dedicated Soyuz flights – a new Arianespace industry record.
“This proves once again the validity of Arianespace’s commitment for quality and reliability – which comes at a price,” explained Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall during today’s launch service providers panel at World Satellite Business Week.
The non-availability of Sea Launch’s Zenith launches due to the company’s bankruptcy filing, combined with the postponement of Space X’s Falcon 9 maiden flight, has forced customers of these competitors to seek other launch opportunities, Le Gall explained.
“In terms of order intake, the consequences have been that, out of the 23 launch contracts signed since the beginning of 2009, only 16 have concerned new unassigned satellites, and the other seven were for reassigned satellites,” he said. “Of these, Arianespace has signed 10 contracts.”
Additionally, the most recent Long March commercial mission from China was short of its targeted orbital injection, which is expected to have an impact on insurance rates.
Le Gall noted that Arianespace has launched four Ariane 5s on highly accurate missions so far in 2009, with three more planned before year-end. The company has signed 11 new launch contracts for geostationary satellites on Ariane 5 or Soyuz, along with two Galileo navigation satellite payloads on Soyuz missions.
Assessing the future, Le Gall observed that the situation may have stabilized in the middle of an annual market for the launching of 15-25 satellites per year. He noted that the world’s current launch service companies have the capacity to deal with this business volume, despite calls from certain satellite telecommunications industry executives for additional competitors in the commercial space lift sector.
Looking at the sizes of satellites to be launched, Le Gall said there is a clear confirmation that two “sweet spots” are emerging: one for 3-ton payloads, and the other nearer to 6 tons. “The Arianespace approach – providing a 9-ton payload lift capability with Ariane 5, together with a 3-ton Soyuz, both operating from French Guiana – is perfectly adapted to providing what the market requires,” Le Gall stated. “With 45 Ariane 5 and 14 Soyuz vehicles in production, we are well-prepared for all of the market needs.”
Le Gall added that Ariane 5’s capabilities will be further enhanced when its payload lift performance is increased to 9.2 metric tons by late 2010. This will be accomplished by using lessons learned from the launcher’s operating experience, including the optimization of mission trajectories. The performance improvement will be achieved without any hardware changes, he stated, which is in line with Arianespace’s philosophy of always flying the same vehicle configuration for reliability – demonstrated by the 32 consecutive mission successes for Ariane 5.
“We all know in this industry that ‘the very best business plan is only as good as the next launch,” he concluded. “Once again, it justifies the unofficial Arianespace motto of: ‘Launches speak louder than words!’”
To underscore this point, Arianespace utilized its exhibit stand at World Satellite Business Week to distribute mission patches with the “Launches speak louder than words” motto. This patch includes representations of the Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega as they ascend from Arianespace’s launch base at the Spaceport in French Guiana, and it quickly became a collector’s item with attendees at the conference.