Stéphane Israel denounces the all-out offensive of American billionaire Elon Musk, in the space sector.
Stéphane Israël, Executive Chairman of Arianespace, Tokyo, April 19, 2016. TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP
From Kourou in Guyana, where took off Ariane 5 Tuesday, November 26, Stephane Israel, executive president of Arianespace, denounces the all-out offensive of the American Elon Musk, ranging from satellites to the launcher. It welcomes the response of Europeans with the future Ariane 6 rocket, whose first flight is planned from mid-2020.
With his reusable rocket, Elon Musk put an end to the dominance of Ariane. Can the European rocket catch up?
Ariane continues to dominate the market, but for the first time, it faces a competitor, Elon Musk, who relies on US institutional contracts. These are much more numerous and at higher prices than European references. This strategy allows it to break the prices of its rocket launches for customers outside the United States. To face it, Ariane 6 will have three advantages: it will be cheaper, better adapted to the European satellites and, with its reignitable engine during the mission, it will be able to carry out complex operations, for example in the service of the constellations.
And about the reuse?
Everything depends on production rates. In the case of Space X, we see that Elon Musk needs volume to make his rocket profitable. It is no coincidence that, with his Starlink constellation project of 42,000 satellites [intended for telecommunications to cover the entire planet] , he has become his own client! We said that we would be ready to go for reuse if the market, institutional and commercial volume justified it. In this perspective, we hope that the ministerial conference will fund a low cost and variable thrust engine called Prometheus, as well as Themis, the floor recovery demonstrator.
What would be the consequences of this abundance of satellites?
This project raises two major issues. The first is the risk of monopolization of the space industry, since this actor drains considerable capital to verticalize the sector: he wants to build, launch and operate 42,000 satellites. The second is a kind of colonization of the low orbit (zone of the Earth's orbit up to 2,000 km altitude) , which can not accommodate without limit and without damage tens of thousands of satellites . We say no to a "Wild West" space. We support constellation projects and believe that it is a major topic for Europe, but in the context of a sustainable space. Regulation of low orbits is urgent.