Arianespace plans vehicle and activity transitions in 2022
WASHINGTON – After its most active year in two decades, crowned with the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope for NASA, Arianespace is entering a period of transition in 2022 marked by the introduction of new vehicles and a changing customer base.
During a press briefing on January 6, Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, celebrated the company’s achievements in 2021, including 15 Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega rocket launches. This is the highest number of missions in one year for the company since 2000, when Arianespace carried out 16 Ariane 4, Ariane 5 and Soyuz rocket launches.
Arianespace achieved sales of 1.25 billion euros ($ 1.4 billion) in 2021, a 30% increase over 2020. The company has not disclosed its profitability for the year, but Israel called the year “balance.”
The coming year could be even busier, with up to 17 launches on its manifesto for 2022. This includes nine Soyuz launches from Baikonur and French Guiana as well as four Ariane 5 launches.
The introduction of the Vega C, the upgraded version of the small Vega launcher, is also slated for 2022, with the first launch slated for the second quarter. This will be followed by two more Vega C launches later in the year.
Perhaps the most significant launch of 2022 for Arianespace will be the inaugural launch of Ariane 6, currently scheduled for the second half of the year. The core and upper stages of an Ariane 6 are on their way to Guyana for combined tests on the pad from April.
Israel remained optimistic that the first Ariane 6 launch would take place this year despite prolonged delays in developing the vehicle, including a recent slip from the second quarter of 2022 to sometime in the second half of the year. “All our energies are mobilized to do it,” he said during the briefing. “Very important milestones are now behind us, which is why we are confident to complete this maiden flight this year.”
Unlike the introduction of Ariane 5, which ran in parallel with Ariane 4 for several years before Ariane 4 was retired, there will be little overlap between Ariane 5 and Ariane 6. Five Ariane 5 launches remain. , four of which are dual-satellite launches planned for this year. All of those launches are now complete, Israel said after a contract with India’s ISRO space agency for the launch of the GSAT-24 satellite.
These missions will be followed by the launch of the European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or JUICE, mission in the first half of 2023 as the final Ariane 5 mission. “We are very happy to end the brilliant life of Ariane 5 with such an ambitious mission for ESA, “he said.
“The overlap between the two launchers will be quite limited,” Israel said in a later interview. He has planned three Ariane 6 launches in 2023, followed by an “ambitious ramp-up” to eight launches in 2024 and 10 to 12 in 2025. “We are prepared for this ramp-up due to the high level of request.
The sources of demand for these launches are changing. Arianespace has long relied primarily on the commercial sector for business, which has remained true in 2021. Israel said during the briefing that of its 15 launches last year, 11.5 were commercial, a figure that includes an Ariane 5 launch which included a commercial satellite and a French government satellite.
However, he pointed out during the briefing an increasing amount of business from the European government or “institutional” clients. Arianespace announced on January 6 a contract between ESA and the European Union for four Galileo satellite launches, three on Ariane 6 vehicles and one on a Soyuz. The company also announced a contract for the launch of two small earth science satellites for Italian space agency ASI on Vega launches between 2022 and 2024.
“If you take our backlog now, it’s almost perfectly balanced,” he said, with 51% future launches for institutional clients and 49% for commercial clients.
“We welcome this rebalancing,” he said in the interview, but added that he was not sure it was a permanent change. “I expect that in the coming years we will have more exposure to the commercial market, but overall the more engagement we have from our institutions, the more resilient we will be.”
One of the reasons for the rebalancing was lower orders for commercial geostationary communications satellites. After a surge in 2020 to 20 orders, driven mainly by replacement C-band satellites, Israel estimated only 12 orders in 2021. “We expected a little more: 15 or 16,” he said.
Constellations can take some of the slack in a diminished GEO market. “Outside of Starlink, I think that market is open and accessible to Arianespace,” he said, referring to SpaceX’s broadband mega-stellation. He argued that Ariane 6 is well suited to support constellation launches due to the large volume in the rocket payload fairing and its restartable upper stage to support deployments to multiple orbits.
Among the opportunities he cited were the second-generation constellation offered by OneWeb and Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which acquired the latest nine Atlas 5 launches from the United Launch Alliance last year. He estimated a market for constellation launches of up to $ 2 billion per year. “We expect this accessible market to be very dynamic,” he said.
Uncertain future of Soyuz
While Arianespace presents Ariane 6 and Vega C, the future of Soyuz launches from Guyana is unclear. While four Soyuz launches from the pad are planned there this year and two next year, Israel is questioning the use of this facility after 2023.
“We have to be guaranteed a certain number of payloads, and that is not sure because Ariane 6 and Vega C should now take back what Soyuz delivered,” he said at the briefing. “We have had discussions with our Russian partners to see if there is a business case for going beyond 2023 or not.”
Israel said in the interview that European institutional clients who used Soyuz will likely switch to Ariane 6 and Vega C after 2023. “As far as trade missions go, it’s a bit too early to say exactly what the market will be,” did he declare. Strong demand for the constellations could support further Soyuz sales, but that would be complicated by US regulations making it increasingly difficult for US companies to operate Russian vehicles.
“If we find a business case, we would be very happy to continue,” he said, with a viable business case for continued Soyuz launches from French Guiana requiring at least two, and preferably three. or more, such missions per year.
Israel expected a decision on Soyuz’s future by the end of the year. “I think this is a good topic for the ESA ministerial meeting,” he said, scheduled for November. “Maintaining backup capacity for Ariane 6 and Vega C may be part of the business case.”
Lessons from JWST
Arianespace ended 2021 on a high note with the successful launch on December 25 of the James Webb Space Telescope. The launch was so precise, NASA officials said on Dec. 29, that the spacecraft will need to use less thruster to adjust its trajectory, allowing it to be used for subsequent station keeping. This will “significantly” extend the mission beyond its expected 10-year lifespan, the agency said.
The extra effort needed to process and launch JWST, such as strict cleanliness requirements, is unlikely to have practical applications for Arianespace, Israel said in the interview. “I’m not sure that will change the way we are going to prepare for JUICE,” he said, as this mission is similar to other ESA science missions that Arianespace has already launched.
Instead, JWST cemented a close partnership between Arianespace and NASA. “What I take away from this is the importance of trust and partnership,” he said. “It was absolutely essential that NASA had confidence in Arianespace. We knew what James Webb meant to NASA.
This trust, he said, will support potential future partnerships between his company and NASA. This includes Mars Sample Return, which will include a European-built orbiter launched on an Ariane 6, as well as support for the Artemis program. ESA is proposing the development of a large cargo lunar lander to support the Artemis missions which would also be launched on Ariane 6. “I’m sure this will change the way we are going to work with NASA,” he said. .
“It was a 20 year journey,” he said of the launch of JWST on Ariane 5. “It was a long, long journey where NASA, ESA and Arianespace worked together and learned from each other. partner.”