After a catastrophic start to the year with the suspension of launches on Soyuz, Arianespace has something to laugh about with the announcement of an extraordinary contract with US e-commerce giant Amazon, founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos† A contract that is reaching its peak, but which should also not mask the shortcomings of the autonomy of the launcher industry in Europe. The European company and Amazon signed on Tuesday “an unprecedented launch service contract” at the International Space Symposium (ISS) in Colorado Springs, USA. That’s 18 launches. A contract whose amount has not yet been communicated. The Kuiper Constellation aims to bring broadband, high-speed, low-latency Internet connectivity to communities around the world.
“This contract, the largest we have ever signed, is a great moment in the history of Arianespace,” said Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israel, quoted in the press release published Tuesday.
If Arianespace was invited to this space party, Amazon selected two other American companies: the joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance (ULA), which will perform 38 launches and Amazon subsidiary Blue Origin, which will perform 37. up to 83 launches over a five-year period. This will allow Amazon to deploy most of its constellation of 3,236 satellites, Amazon said in a statement. “the largest commercial launcher acquisition in history”†
Ariane 6 selected
Arianespace will carry out 18 launches with Ariane 6 for the Kuiper project over a three-year period, from the European spaceport Kourou, in French Guiana. Of the 18 planned launches, 16 will be provided by an upgraded version of Ariane 64. This version will be able to carry between 37 and 39 satellites of the Kuiper constellation. This contract will practically triple the order book for Ariane 6, from 11 launches to 29. “This contract marks a decisive success for the Ariane 6 program and the entire value chain in Europe”darling Stephane Israel. “This is very good news for Europe in the space sector, showing that the right choices have been made. We have a launch vehicle that will make its first flight in a short time and that is competitive in the market, for me it is the beginning of Europe’s great return to space on launchers”, for his part, the president of CNES, Philippe Baptiste, responded with AFP. Have…
Asked by AFP about the fact that Ariane 6 has not yet flown, Stéphane Israel commented: “It is unheard of for a launcher to be reserved at this point, even before its first flight, it is never seen in the history of Ariane. This shows how well we managed to convince a leading customer to trust us, it also shows that the demand for access to space has never been stronger.” †
According to Arianespace, “The versatility, capabilities and expected reliability of Ariane 6 are all key factors that led to the signing of the Kuiper contract. Ariane 6 is a launch vehicle designed from the ground up to evolve and regularly integrate new technologies throughout its entirety. lifespan”† Of the 18 A64 launchers planned under this contract, 16 will be equipped with the more powerful version of the P120C solid propellant boosters (version named P120C+). The incremental evolutions of Ariane 6 aim to continuously optimize the performance of the launch solutions offered by Arianespace in order to best meet the needs of its institutional and commercial clients.