Arianespace is well suited to the needs of EU institutions

Arianespace is well suited to the needs of Europe’s institutions, writes Stéphane Israël.

Stéphane Israël | Photo credit: Arianespace

By Stéphane Israël

19 Jan 2018

With 37 years of satellite launches, Arianespace is a shining example of a European success story. While the company has become the world’s reference for commercial space transportation services, its primary objective remains to provide Europe with a reliable, affordable and independent access to space.

With its family of three launchers from the European space port, the heavyweight vehicle Ariane 5, the medium Soyuz and the light Vega, Arianespace is well suited to the needs of European institutions. 

The European Space Agency (ESA) has entrusted Arianespace with the launch of emblematic missions such as the ATV, Rosetta and its companion Philae, as well as the Herschel and Planck telescopes. More are to come, with the launch this year of the Mercury exploration spacecraft BepiColombo, as well as the James Webb Space Telescope, in cooperation with NASA in 2019.


The European Commission, through contracts awarded by ESA, has relied on Arianespace’s launchers for the deployment of the flagship Galileo navigation and Earth Observation Copernicus programmes.

Indeed, Arianespace has launched a total of four Sentinel payloads and 22 Galileo satellites since 2011, the latest of which took place from the Guiana Space Centre last year, on 6 March with Sentinel 2B and on 12 December with four additional Galileo satellites. 

In September 2017, we were honoured that the European Commission became the first Ariane 6 customer by awarding the future European heavy space vehicle two more launches for four Galileo satellites.

Many thanks to the European Commission and Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska and Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič for this unambiguous vote of confidence towards our next generation of launchers.

The European institutions’ commitment is key to the success of Ariane 6 and Vega C. While Arianespace’s backlog is two-thirds commercial and one-third institutional, this is the exact opposite of our main competitor across the Atlantic, which benefits from a closed US institutional market, allowing them to double their launch prices compared to that of export customers. 

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we establish a level playing field in Europe: this is why we hope that our European institutions (ESA, the European Commission, the member states and Eumetsat) will commit to Ariane 6 and Vega C, in exchange for a competitive and reliable offer.

We have every reason to be confident, since we already foresee an average of seven Ariane 6-class European missions per year in 2020-2022. We know that Galileo and Copernicus will generate many missions for Ariane 6 and Vega C over the next decade.

Consolidating demand for our launchers will allow Europe to maintain reliable and independent access to space at an affordable cost, while seizing unprecedented opportunities in the space sector for the greatest benefit to European citizens.


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