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Feb 18 2014

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ESA at odds over Ariane upgrades

Germany wants Ariane ME5, France wants Ariane 6. Arianespace is facing pressure from two fronts:

  1. Cheaper launch providers, specifically SpaceX
  2. The satellite industry is evolving to smaller buses and lighter propulsion systems, reducing demand for heavy launchers

Here’s an interesting development from 2012 that I’d missed:

But now lighter-load electric propulsion used by satellites once in space is also attacking the company’s hold on the business.

Also known as ion or plasma engines, in 2012 US aerospace giant Boeing was the first to commercially offer a satellite engine that uses electricity from solar panels for thrust.

Most satellite makers followed suit in 2013.

While the thrust is weaker than chemical propelled engines, thus taking months instead of weeks to move a satellite after its launch to its final orbit, it uses much less propellant.

This can cut a satellite’s launch weight by half, allowing it to be lifted by less powerful rockets, thus lowering costs and creating an opportunity for rivals.

Very, very interesting…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2014/02/18/esa-at-odds-over-ariane-upgrades/

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