Friday, March 14, 2014

Americanised Ariane 5: Game-changing Scenarios Rocket Execs

Commercial launch service providers on March 11 raised the possibility of Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket becoming American, the international Sea Launch becoming Russian and the high-cost Japanese H-2A rocket becoming cost competitive.

All three scenarios would mean radical changes for the current systems and address problems that each of them has in maintaining or establishing a position in a market characterized by no more than 20-25 geostationary-orbiting commercial telecommunications satellites being competed for launch in a given year.

The most surprising of the declarations came from Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel, whose Evry, France-based company sees an opening to the now out-of-reach U.S. government market in the U.S. Air Force deliberation over whether U.S. government space system managers should seek a diversity of launch options.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket is bidding to launch military satellites and is on a path toward U.S. Air Force certification.

Israel, whose high-cost Ariane 5 industrial supply chain is already preparing for a Big Bang-type reorganization as it prepares for the next-generation Ariane 6 vehicle, would be obliged to share its work with U.S. contractors if Ariane 5 were to be eligible to launch U.S. government payloads.

“As far as the employment aspect, we are ready to see how we could Americanize our rocket in return for U.S. government business,” Israel said, adding that U.S. rockets occasionally launch European government satellites.

Members of the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA) are encouraged to use the heavy-lift EADS Astrium Ariane 5, the medium-lift Europeanized Russian Soyuz and the light Ariane Vega rockets for all their government missions. With few exceptions, most do this.

The most recent example of an exception is the German government’s second-generation radar reconnaissance satellite system, SARah-2.

The two SARah-2 and -3, satellites are scheduled for launch on two SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets.

But the launch contract is not with the German government, but with OHB AG of Bremen, Germany, which is the SARah prime contractor and was given leeway in determining who would conduct the launches.

The first-generation constellation, the five-satellite SAR-Lupe system, was launched aboard Cosmos-3M Russian vehicles.

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