SpaceX Competition Has Arianespace Looking at New Pricing

Ariane 5
Ariane 5

Space News reports that Arianespace is looking to counter the growing threat from SpaceX in the communications satellite launch market:

The Arianespace commercial launch consortium is telling its customers it is open to reducing the cost of flights for lighter satellites on the Ariane 5 rocket in response to the challenge posed by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel said Nov. 25.

“I have sent a signal to our customers telling them that I could review our pricing policy, within certain limits,” Israel said in an interview with Les Echos, a French financial newspaper. “I think they have appreciated this.”

SpaceX Chairman Elon Musk taunted Arianespace again on Nov. 24, the day before his company’s scheduled launch of the SES-8 satellite owned by SES of Luxembourg.

“Unless the other rocket makers improve their technology rapidly, they will lose significant market share to the Falcon 9,” Musk said in a news briefing.

An Ariane 5 launch costs $200 million and carries two spacecraft to geosynchronous transfer orbit. Each launch pairs a heavy satellite typically weighing more than 5,000 kilograms with a lighter one.

SpaceX, which charges $56.5 million for a Falcon 9 launch, poses a threat to Arianespace is for the lighter communications satellites.  This competition could make it more difficult for the European company to find satellite pairs for launches.

How lower prices would affect Arianespace’s bottom line is an interesting question. The company is not profitable without annual subsidies from European governments, who have been looking to reduce their financial support to Arianespace.

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