Arianespace Backlog Stands at 52 Launches as Company Prepares for Ariane 6, Vega C

Ariane 5 lifts off with the Intelsat 5 and EDRS-C communications satellites aboard. (Credit: Arianespace)

PARIS (Arianespace PR) — With Arianespace once again participating in the World Satellite Business Week (WSBW) event in Paris from September 9 to 13, the company continues to confirm the attractiveness of its launcher family, with nine new contracts signed since the beginning of the year – including Ariane 6’s maiden flight and the concluding payload contract for the SSMS demonstration flight on Vega (which is now fully booked). Arianespace’s backlog currently stands at 52 launches to be carried out by the Ariane 5/Ariane 6, Vega/Vega C and Soyuz vehicles.

In the perspective of ESA’s upcoming Ministerial Conference (Space 19+, in Seville), Arianespace – in conjunction with its industrial and institutional partners – is gearing up for the future. The first flights of both Vega C and Ariane 6 are actively being prepared for 2020, along with the transition phase from 2020 to 2023, when Arianespace will operate five different launch vehicles at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (South America).

At the WSBW event this week, Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël will take part in the panel discussion: “Large launch systems adapt to changing market landscape,” on Tuesday, September 10 at 4:30 p.m.

Dynamic commercial momentum for all launchers in the Arianespace family

Since January 2019, Arianespace has announced eight new launch contracts along with booking from an undisclosed customer.

The Ariane 6 order book continues to expand with both commercial and institutional customers. This year saw the signature of a contract for the maiden flight of Ariane 6, using the A62 version with two strap-on boosters for OneWeb; as well as ViaSat’s announcement to transfer its ViaSat-3 satellite from an Ariane 5 ECA to an Ariane 64 version.

The European Space Agency (ESA) chose Arianespace to launch its JUICE (JUpiter ICy moon Explorer) mission from 2022 aboard an Ariane 64 with the possibility of using an Ariane 5 depending on the final launch period chosen by ESA. These varied contracts consolidate the Ariane 6’s backlog, which already counts two missions for Galileo, one mission for the French Ministry of Defense, and a multi-launch agreement for Eutelsat.

Ovzon, for its part, decided to launch the operator’s first geostationary orbit telecommunications satellite – Ovzon-3 – on an Ariane 5. Additionally, Ariane 5 also won a new “undisclosed” contract this summer for a launch in 2021.

The Vega launcher recorded three new contracts this year. In 2020, it will orbit the StriX-α demonstration satellite for the Japanese startup Synspective, as well as the SEOSat/Ingenio for ESA (on behalf of the Spanish CDTI – Center for the Development of Industrial Technology).

The demonstration flight of the SSMS small satellite launch service on Vega is now full, with the latest contract adding the ESAIL satellite for exactEarth.

Arianespace also signed contracts for two auxiliary payloads in 2019: Open Cosmos and Tyvak, both of which will be launched via Soyuz as from this year.

These orders clearly reflect the versatility and attractiveness of the current and future launchers in the Arianespace family. They also illustrate Arianespace’s ability to adapt to the changing market, in particular to meet the growing demand for constellation launches and shared launch services (as shown by the SSMS and MLS services on Vega/Vega C and Ariane 6, respectively).

In this regard, Arianespace announced an innovative service for rapid access to geostationary orbit (GEO), which was unveiled during August at the Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah, USA. This service responds to the new generation of small satellites by offering launch opportunities beginning in 2022 on Arianespace’s GO-1 mission (with an Ariane 64 version), which can carry a payload of more than 4,500 kg.

Arianespace’s ability to meet customer needs also is reflected in the users’ clubs organized by the company for both customers and partners. For example, the latest meeting of the Ariane 6 users’ club was on September 6 at Les Mureaux, near Paris, while a Vega/Vega C users’ day is being held on September 9 in Paris.

Arianespace’s order backlog now counts 52 launches for 37 customers:

  • 11 by Ariane 5,
  • 24 by Soyuz,
  • 8 by Ariane 6, and
  • 9 by Vega/Vega C.

17 satellites orbited by Ariane, Soyuz and Vega since January 2019

Arianespace has carried out seven launches since the beginning of the year from the Guiana Space Center (CSG). These launches placed into orbit 17 satellites, totaling over 34 metric tons, into low, medium and geostationary transfer orbits (LEO, MEO and GTO) between January 27 and August 6, 2019:

  • Three Ariane 5s lofted six geostationary communications satellites (representing two-thirds of all such payloads launched so far this year) for Intelsat, AT&T, Eutelsat, Airbus, ESA, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Hellas-Sat and KACST.
  • Two Soyuz launchers orbited four satellites in SES’s O3b constellation, as well as the first six satellites in the OneWeb constellation, designed to provide connectivity services.
  • Vega (Flight VV14) orbited the PRISMA Earth observation satellite for the Italian ASI space agency. Flight VV15, carrying the FalconEye satellite on July 10, saw the first failure of a Vega launcher following 14 successful launches in a row. The Independent Inquiry Commission for Flight VV15 submitted its findings on September 4, setting out an action plan for a return to flight by the first quarter of 2020, under the requisite conditions of reliability.

The availability and flexibility of Arianespace’s launch services have been further confirmed since the last edition of WSWB 2018, with six launches in less than three months performed from September 25 to December 18, 2018. Furthermore, in June 2019, Arianespace reached the symbolic mark of 600 satellites launched since the company was founded in 1980.

For the last quarter of 2019, up to four additional launch opportunities have been identified using Ariane 5 and Soyuz. The end of the year should notably see the resumption of launches by Arianespace with its Starsem subsidiary from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for OneWeb’s second launch using a Soyuz rocket.

Ariane 6 and Vega C advance toward their first launches

The development of Arianespace’s new Vega C and Ariane 6 launchers is continuing, with their initial flights in 2020. Arianespace also is teaming up with its industrial and institutional partners to prepare for the transition period from 2020 to 2023, when the company will simultaneously operate five different launchers (Ariane 5/Ariane 6, Vega/Vega C and Soyuz) on four launch pads.

European institutions confirmed their commitment to Ariane 6 and Vega C. The European Commission proposed a significant space budget for the next decade. Following the European Space Agency’s Council meeting on April 17, Arianespace signed in May an order with ArianeGroup for the initial 14 Ariane 6-series launchers that will fly between 2021 and 2023, in parallel with eight Ariane 5s to compose the final batch with this launch vehicle for use from 2020.

Over and above the five institutional missions already signed for Europe’s future launchers (four for Ariane 6 and one for Vega C), the commitment of European countries to all missions identified during the transition phase is a key to these launchers’ sustainable success. Similarly, through the financing of technological upgrades, Ariane 6 and Vega C will continually enhance their competitiveness and adapt to changing market requirements throughout the 2020s. ESA’s Space 19+ Ministerial Conference, to be held in Seville, Spain at the end of November, will play a key role. Arianespace is actively preparing for this meeting in conjunction with all of its partners.

About Arianespace

Arianespace uses space to make life better on Earth by providing launch services for all types of satellites into all orbits. It has orbited more than 600 satellites since 1980, using its family of three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, from launch sites in French Guiana (South America) and Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, and has a technical facility at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, D.C., Tokyo and Singapore. Arianespace is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, which holds 74% of its share capital, with the balance held by 15 other shareholders from the European launcher industry.