Arianespace signs the largest contract in its history with Amazon

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The Ariane 6 launch site, in Kourou, French Guiana, in September 2021.

“We have just signed and announced the most important contract in Ariane’s history. » Tuesday, April 5, at the Space Symposium, the gathering of the world space community, in Colorado Springs (Colorado), the executive president of Arianespace, Stéphane Israel, showed his satisfaction. After two and a half years of negotiation, Amazon has chosen the European rocket to put into orbit part of the 3,236 satellites making up its future Kuiper constellation, whose objective is to broadcast high-speed Internet throughout the planet, to by 2030. It is one of the four launchers selected by the e-commerce champion for its 83 launches, which, in addition to its future New Glenn rocket, developed by Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, will use Atlases and Vulcans Centaur of the American United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Read also After three postponements, the Ariane-5 rocket took off from Kourou

Eighteen Ariane-6 launches are planned in three years, each of the launchers carrying at least thirty satellites. Never seen. “Usually, customers only need half the payload capacity of a rocket for their satellites, now the entire launcher is reserved, it’s as if we had signed thirty -six contracts at once”, explains Mr. Israel. The rhythm of the missions has not been specified, nor the amount of this contract, which would amount to several billion euros.

The priority now is to successfully bring this new rocket into service as quickly as possible, to succeed Ariane-5, which has been in operation since 1996 and whose first flight is scheduled for December..

two years late

“The Amazon contract gives the Ariane-6 program scope, gives credibility to its market prospects and, above all, it consolidates the image of this future launcher, emphasizes the boss of Arianespace. Designed at a time when the market was dominated by the launch of large satellites into geostationary orbit at 36,000 kilometers from Earth, it demonstrates its adaptability to this new and expanding market for constellations of small satellites in low orbit. , evolving between 500 and 1,200 kilometres. »

“The Amazon contract gives the Ariane-6 program scope, gives credibility to its market prospects and, above all, it consolidates the image of this future launcher”, Stéphane Israël, Executive Chairman of Arianespace

This new market was almost non-existent in 2014, when the Europeans decided to equip themselves with a new rocket. They then do so in reaction to the offensive of the founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, who, by arriving in the space field, with SpaceX and its Falcon-9 rockets, lowers prices, weakens and even eclipses traditional players.

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