Arianespace to Report Small Loss for 2013, Looks Forward to Busy 2014

An Ariane 5 rocket soars into orbit on Dec. 29, 2010. Credits: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique vidéo du CSG
An Ariane 5 rocket soars into orbit on Dec. 29, 2010. Credits: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique vidéo du CSG

Despite a government subsidy of 100 million euros, Arianespace expects to lose money in 2013 when all the accounts are totalled up. However, the European launch company is looking toward a record breaking year in 2014 as it works through a large manifest, Space News reports.

Arianespace launch consortium expects to report a ‘slight loss’ for 2013 following a revenue drop of some 27 percent compared to 2012 as a result of lower-than-planned launch activity, Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel said Jan. 7.

The Evry, France-based company said it had set aside sufficient reserves to cover most of the loss and will not need to request a fresh cash injection from its shareholders, a group made up mainly of Ariane 5 rocket contractors and the French space agency, CNES.

Addressing a press briefing here, Israel said the precipitous drop in top-line revenue did not result in a similarly large operating loss, in part because the company avoided certain expenses it would have incurred had it launched more often.

Also helping Arianespace avoid a larger loss is a scheduled cash payment of 100 million euros ($135 million) from the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA). ESA governments pay Arianespace each year predetermined sums to enable the company to maintain financial viability and to offset operating costs.

“Arianespace carried out eight launches in 2013: seven from the Guiana Space Center and one from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan,” the company said in a press release. “Three Ariane 5 ECA launchers orbited six telecommunications satellites, an Ariane 5 ES launched the fourth ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle), dubbed ‘Albert Einstein’,, to the International Space Station, and two Soyuz missions orbited the first four 03b satellites, and the Gaia space telescope respectively. The second launch of Vega, also a success, orbited Proba-V, VNREDSat-1 and ESTCube-1, confirming the operational status of the latest launcher to join the Arianespace family.”

Arianespace Launch Activity, 2013
NumberDateLaunch VehicleLaunch SitePayload(s)Result
102/06/13SoyuzBaikonurGlobalstarSuccess
202/07/13Ariane 5KourouAmazonas 3 & AzerspaceSuccess
305/06/13VegaKourouProba-V & VNREDSat 1ASuccess
406/05/13Ariane 5KourouATV-4Success
607/25/13Ariane 5KourouAlphasat XL & INSAT 3DSuccess
606/25/13SoyuzKourouO3b F1Success
708/29/13Ariane 5KourouEutelsat 25B & GSAT 7Success
812/19/13SoyuzKourouGaiaSuccess

Arianespace says that its current record backlog of orders, which stretches out over three years, is worth €4.3 billion ($5.86 billion) and includes:

  • 21 Ariane 5 launches
  • 9 Soyuz launches
  • 6 Vega launches

The company reports it signed 18 launch contracts in 2013 worth a total €1.4 billion ($1.9 billion) in 2013. That total includes 15  geostationary satellites that will be launched by Ariane 5 and three Earth observation satellites that will be launched by the Vega rocket.

Israel told Space News that Arianespace is aiming for a record 14 launches in 2014, although he acknowledged the company might not reach that total this year.

Arianespace is also hearing the footsteps of SpaceX, the American launch services company that just successfully lofted a second communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit on Monday.

“Faced with growing competition, Arianespace plans to immediately improve the competitiveness of its Ariane launch system along with all partners in this program,” the company said in the press release. “At the same time, it will submit concrete proposals to improve the Ariane ‘road map’, to be defined at the ESA ministerial-level conference scheduled for Luxembourg in December 2014.”

Arianespace is pursuing a series of improvements, including an expansion launch vehicle and payload processing capacity at the Guiana Space Center, an improved shroud for the existing Ariane 5 that will allow for larger payloads, the Ariane 5 ME project to expand the lifting capacity of the booster, and the development of the new Ariane 6 replacement vehicle.

The full press release is reproduced below.

Arianespace gears up for record year in 2014
Paris, January 7, 2014

Following a year of unprecedented orders, Arianespace is gearing up to beat its record for the number of launches during a year in 2014, while continuing to adapt its launcher family to meet customer needs and bolstering its competitiveness.

Inaugural Vega flight. (Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012)
Inaugural Vega flight. (Credits: ESA – S. Corvaja, 2012)

2013 RESULTS

Unprecedented order intake for a record backlog of launches

Arianespace signed 18 launch contracts in 2013, worth €1.4 billion:

  • 15 for geostationary satellites to be launched by Ariane 5, giving it a market share of 60%.
  • 3 for Earth observation satellites, to be launched by Vega.

Based on this business success, Arianespace now has a record backlog of orders, worth a total of €4.3 billion and equal to more than three years of launches. With 21 Ariane 5 launches, nine Soyuz launches and six Vega launches, Arianespace continues to have the largest launch backlog in the industry, one that includes a wide range of both government and private customers from around the world.

Quality, reliability, availability: the watchwords for Arianespace launches

With its family of Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega launchers, Arianespace confirmed its ability in 2013 to handle a complete range of missions, from commercial launches into geostationary orbit to launches of scientific spacecraft into special orbits, while maintaining its unrivaled reliability and availability. Ariane 5 has now logged an impressive 11 years of uninterrupted success, with 57 successful launches in a row and 12 consecutive countdowns with launches taking place right on time.

Soyuz launch complex in Kourou. (Credit: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2011)
Soyuz launch complex in Kourou. (Credit: ESA – S. Corvaja, 2011)

Arianespace carried out eight launches in 2013: seven from the Guiana Space Center and one from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Three Ariane 5 ECA launchers orbited six telecommunications satellites, an Ariane 5 ES launched the fourth ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle), dubbed “Albert Einstein”, to the International Space Station, and two Soyuz missions orbited the first four 03b satellites, and the Gaia space telescope respectively. The second launch of Vega, also a success, orbited Proba-V, VNREDSat-1 and ESTCube-1, confirming the operational status of the latest launcher to join the Arianespace family.

Successful startup of projects to enhance operations

In 2013 Arianespace kicked off various operational projects designed to adapt its launchers to market requirements, and support greater operational flexibility in coming years.

  • Ariane 5 ECA: to keep pace with the increasing size of geostationary telecom satellites, Arianespace received support from the European Space Agency (ESA) to undertake a program, financed by France and Switzerland, to increase the payload capacity under the fairing, without penalizing performance. The new system should be available in the second half of 2015.
  • Increased capacity and flexibility at the Guiana Space Center: a decision was made to build a New Filling Hall (NBR), dedicated to propellant loading operations for the Soyuz upper stage, Fregat; it should be ready in the first half of 2015. The aim is to free the current building (S3B) used for this purpose, making it available for payloads, since propellant loading for the Fregat is currently a bottleneck during launch campaigns at CSG. Furthermore, by improving the combined operational planning for the three launch systems, Arianespace was able to reduce the length of the Soyuz and Vega launch campaigns, while also reducing the time between missions by two different launchers from three to two weeks.
  • Launcher supply continuity:

Ariane 5: signature of a contract with Astrium (now Airbus Defence and Space) on December 14, 2013 for 18 additional Ariane 5 ECA launchers, to be used starting in 2017.

Vega: signature on November 20 in Rome with ELV and ESA of a tripartite agreement establishing the procurement conditions for an additional 10 Vega launchers.

Soyuz: discussions are continuing with our partners in the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and should be concluded by mid-2014, to complete the batch currently being procured to meet Arianespace’s requirements.

Arianespace therefore has a total of 62 launchers (38 Ariane 5, 14 Vega and 10 Soyuz) under order, clearly demonstrating its faith in the future.  

OUTLOOK FOR 2014

Objective: a new operational record to better serve our customers

To meet the requirements of its record backlog of orders, Arianespace aims to beat the record for launches in a year, of ten in 2012. Operations will kick off in February, using Ariane 5 ECA for two geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) missions: VA217, with ABS-2 and Athena-Fidus, then VA216, with Astra 5B and Amazonas 4A.

Focus on Europe and government customers

In line with Arianespace’s assigned mission of ensuring independent access to space for Europe, the company plans a number of launches in 2014 for European governments and agencies.

  • European Commission: the first launch (Sentinel 1A) for Copernicus, a European program dedicated to the environment and risk management, along with the continued deployment of the Galileo constellation, using the Soyuz launcher. At the same time, Soyuz will continue to deploy the commercial constellation O3b, following its first launch in 2013.
  • European Space Agency (ESA): launch of the last ATV cargo vessel, “Georges Lemaître”, with an Ariane 5 ES, and the IXV demonstrator using a Vega rocket.
  • French and Italian armed forces: the launch of two military communications satellites, Athena-Fidus and Sicral 2, using the Ariane 5 ECA. 

BUILDING FOUNDATIONS FOR THE FUTURE

Faced with growing competition, Arianespace plans to immediately improve the competitiveness of its Ariane launch system along with all partners in this program. At the same time, it will submit concrete proposals to improve the Ariane “road map”, to be defined at the ESA ministerial-level conference scheduled for Luxembourg in December 2014.

Artist's conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Ariane 5 ME to offer higher performance starting in 2018

To meet emerging market requirements, including the advent of a number of small and medium satellites, calling on the advantages of electric propulsion systems, Arianespace hopes to be able to deploy its upgraded Ariane 5 ME launcher as soon as possible. This new version will offer greater flexibility, thanks to an upper stage equipped with the restartable Vinci cryogenic engine. A first launch could be carried out as early as 2018.

Ariane 6 to drive continued success in the next decade

Extending the advantages of Ariane 5 ME, Ariane 6 will meet the needs of both government and commercial customers by offering competitive launch rates for large and small satellites alike. Arianespace fully supports the initiative by ESA and the European space industry to develop the most competitive launcher possible over the next decade.