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Arianespace Marks 30 Years of Rocket Launches

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
December 29, 2009
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Ariane 5

Ariane 5

3 December 2009

The 30th anniversary of Ariane’s first flight was celebrated tonight in Washington, D.C., where Arianespace Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall underscored the importance of launch services maturity and continuity in today’s competitive marketplace.

Speaking to attendees at the company’s annual holiday gathering in the U.S. nation’s capital, Le Gall said three decades of operations has seen the Ariane launch site in French Guiana become the world’s most advanced space center.

He recalled the maiden flight of Ariane 1 on Christmas Eve 1979, noting that the dedication of a small, but determined team of engineers and scientists paved the way for Arianespace’s creation as the world’s first commercial launch services company.

In a reference to the operational expertise gained since this milestone Ariane mission, Le Gall joked that one key conclusion of such a successful heritage is: “Don’t trust anyone under the age of 30,” noting that experience is vital for launch services quality and performance.

“In all seriousness, over the last three decades, Arianespace developed not just the technical know-how, but the wisdom that comes from having launched nearly every kind of platform and nearly every kind of mission,” he explained. “It is one of those intangible qualities that produce very tangible results.”

Le Gall’s speech included a reference to the important role played by Ariane and Arianespace in the United States – both for commercial operators and the government.

“Since our inception, Arianespace has launched nearly 50 percent of all U.S. commercial satellites, for which we are very proud,” he said. “We’re also proud of the fact that many of the satellites we’ve launched are supporting the American warfighter overseas. Many people are not aware that commercial satellites provide 80 percent of the Department of Defense’s satellite capacity.”

Le Gall also underscored Arianespace’s contributions in helping new satellite operators literally get off the ground by providing access to space for start-up companies such as TerreStar Networks, which is based near Washington, D.C. in Reston, Virginia. Its TerreStar-1 satellite was successfully orbited by a heavy-lift Ariane 5 mission last July, delivering this nearly seven-metric ton spacecraft into a highly accurate orbit.

“TerreStar-1 was the world’s largest telecommunications satellite ever launched, and it was TerreStar Network’s first satellite – so they literally had everything riding on our rocket,” he said. “With the flawless Ariane 5 launch behind them, TerreStar has partnered with AT&T, and is now rolling out a revolutionary pocket-sized satellite phone.”

Le Gall concluded his remarks with a reminder that the launch site in French Guiana “has become a pathway to space for all people of the world,” and will further expand its operations next year when Arianespace introduces Soyuz as the newest member of its launcher family in 2010.