André-Hubert Roussel, Executive Chairman of ArianeGroup: “Europe must invest heavily in space”

On the occasion of 72e International Astronautical Congress, which takes place in Dubai from October 25 to 29, Europeans present their ambitions in space exploration. The future Ariane-6 launcher expected in 2022 will be essential to carry out these projects. Despite the difficulties encountered, the executive chairman of ArianeGroup, André-Hubert Roussel, discusses the strategic importance of this rocket “To guarantee European sovereignty”

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Elon Musk with SpaceX, its low cost flights and its reusable rockets shakes up the market, forcing ArianeGroup to constantly adapt. This summer, the French and the Germans came to an agreement, is Ariane-6 saved?

For starters, Ariane-6 is an exceptional launcher, which is on track and does not need to be rescued. But, between the time we launched Ariane-6 in 2014 and today, the space environment has changed dramatically. First of all, we are witnessing an increase in the number of players able to go into space, moving from a few large institutions to private groups such as SpaceX, which has its own constellation of satellites. At the same time, uses have multiplied and space transport is becoming a reality.

This summer, Europe, through the European Space Agency (ESA) renewed its confidence in Ariane-6 and above all recalled its need to have its own access to space. The agreement between France and Germany, which are the two largest contributors to the Ariane-6 program [56 % Paris et 22 % Berlin], makes it possible to fight with a little more equal arms on the commercial market, and also to the European industry to maintain relatively high rates.

What are the terms?

The Europeans will do as the Americans. When SpaceX goes to NASA or the Department of Defense, it charges launches from $ 200 to $ 300 million ($ 172 to $ 258 million). This allows it to lower prices on the commercial market by offering its Falcon 9 at $ 50 million, almost half the price of Ariane-5. To cope with this market distortion, Europe has undertaken to guarantee its industry four missions and a mechanism ensuring a minimum production rate. This will allow equilibrium to be reached from seven Ariane-6s per year. The other three launchers will be offered on the commercial market, knowing that we will be able to manufacture up to twelve rockets per year as needed.

Before this agreement, tensions were high between Paris and Berlin, the Germans claiming to want to develop alone a microlancer industry. What about today ?

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André-Hubert Roussel, Executive Chairman of ArianeGroup: “Europe must invest heavily in space”