2022, annus horribilis for Arianespace… The marketing company of European space launch systems (Ariane 5, Vega and Soyuz) is shattered this year by the breath of war in Ukraine: the departure of Russian teams operating Soyuz from Guyana combined with the suspension of Western satellite launches in Russia (Baikonur and Vostotchny) in retaliation for Western sanctions has severely penalized it operationally. “The year 2022 did not turn out as we would have imagined at the start of the year”explained last week the CEO of Arianespace, Stéphane Israël on the sidelines of the launch of Eutelsat’s Konnect VHTS satellite. Between the delays of Ariane 6, the mismanagement of the transition between Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 and the war in Ukraine, Arianespace, which is not responsible for most of these events, should show accounts in bright red.
“Things are clear: it’s a year of activity that is less than what we could have hoped for, knowing that the massive cause of this situation is obviously the case of force majeure generated around the Soyuz launcher”, noted Stéphane Israel. “This suspension of Soyuz launches came at a time when Arianespace had a lot to do with the Russian launcher due to the OneWeb contract and the five institutional missions (two Galileo, EarthCare, Euclid and the CSO 3 spy satellite for the account of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, editor’s note).
Thus, of the 15 launches (four Ariane 5, nine Soyuz, two Vega/Vega C) planned for the start of 2022, Arianespace should only operate five, of which three have already been carried out (two Ariane 5 and one Soyuz on February 3 a few days before Russia invaded Ukraine). On the other hand, the inaugural launch of Vega C in July was operated under the responsibility of the European Space Agency (ESA). This will also be the case for the maiden flight of Ariane 6. Between now and the end of the year, Arianespace must carry out two other flights: the first commercial launch of Vega C on November 21 (Pléiades 5 and 6 satellites) and an Ariane 5 (Meteosat Third Generation and Galaxy 35 and 36). In the end, Arianespace lost eight Soyuz launches (six at Baikonur and two at CSG), one Ariane 5 launch due to a payload availability problem, and finally one Vega launch.
A growing market?
Despite this situation “painful for Arianespace and obviously for its customers”, the CEO of Arianespace says he is optimistic for the years to come with the imminent arrival (?) of Ariane 6 combined with the stabilization of the operation of the new Italian launcher Vega C developed and manufactured by Avio. Why this optimism? First of all, it is based on the company’s very extensive order book. “We have the equivalent of 29 Ariane 6 and 9 Vega/Vega C (including seven Vega C, editor’s note). In a way, we have already done the job commercially on our side”, estimated Stéphane Israel. It is true that the giant Amazon’s mega-order fully contributes to this optimism.
“We won this order with Amazon for 18 launchers, which is obviously unprecedented in the history of Arianespace. Soyuz with OneWeb is not at all in the same order of magnitude”, rejoiced the boss of the marketing company European space launch systems .
“There is reason to be optimistic about the market outlook”, underlined Stéphane Israel. Based on recent studies, he estimated that the new Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers would arrive on an accessible market estimated at three billion euros per year between 2020 and 2030. This offers attractive commercial prospects for both European launchers. This market will be dominated (“up to 50%”, according to the figures put forward by Stéphane Israël) by the launch of the constellations. That is a market valued at 1.5 billion. He also estimated the market for institutional launches at around 500 million euros, on which the ESA has promised a base of four Ariane 6 and two Vega C per year. Finally, market estimates for launch services for the GTO market (telecoms satellite) would amount to approximately 500 million euros, while those for the low orbit market (excluding large constellations) targeted for Vega C would reach also 500 million.
“We are in a market that is growing in volume but also in value. We are coming out of years when it was in decline in volume and value with the fall of the GTO market. With the constellations, it is growing again. C It is also corroborated by all the analyzes of investment banks such as Morgan Stanley and other studies which predict that the market could triple by 2040”, explained Stéphane Israël.
Launchers finally adapted to the market?
“Ariane 6 has been designed to serve the institutional market much more easily”assured Stéphane Israël, who also felt that “these launchers are perfectly adapted to respond to new changes in the market”. In particular that of the constellations, which should be dynamic this year. While Ariane 6 will make fewer double launches than Ariane 5, the future launcher will perform many more constellation multiple launches, he said. For its part, Vega C benefits from 30% more performance than Vega thanks to the new P120C boosters (common to Ariane 6) and 50% more volume. Vega C will be able to apply for missions with heavier radars.
Arianespace will rely on three new pillars thanks to its new family of launchers while continuing to work on the GTO: the pillar of large constellations, that of institutional launches, “which we hope will be more structuring with two very suitable launchers than it has been”, and then that of the new projects in low orbit (observation satellites or small constellations) which are emerging. Stéphane Israël confirms that the space sector has entered “the era of Big Space”. “We are entering a world of volumes. We have to be careful and confirm this, but it is really the fundamental change. where there will be more and more satellites thanks to the constellations”he analyzed. There is no more…