I stopped at the second paragraph.

ULA is not/cannot be (at least I hope that you're wrong otherwise the European commission is completely clueless) under consideration.

ULA in an even worst position than Ariane Space. All 29 Atlas V's and the 2 Delta IV Heavies left are already sold (DOD, Starliner, Kupier and one for Via Sat). The first 40+ launches of their next rocket Vulcan Centaur are already booked(Astrobotic, NASA, DOD and Kupier), to make matters worst the BE-4 engines they use are super late AND they just had an incident with their upper stage testing. So no spots until well into 2025 at best, 2026 in my personal opinion... By then one would hope that Ariane 6 is flying.

SpaceX is absolutely the only choice (maybe ISRO, but 1 or 2 launches at best in the next 2 to 3 years given their launch cadence)

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Thanks for your article. I find your articles are the most insightful on European spaceflight. A major question not being addressed is if ArianeSpace can get any of the commercial launch market at the stated prices of €75 million($80 million) for the Ariane 62 and €115 million($125 million) for the Ariane 64. The ESA hope is at least the $80 million Ariane 62 will at least be competitive to the current $67 million price of the Falcon 9 as new.

But in fact this is illusory. The great majority of the Falcon 9 launches are used at the $40 million price. So the announced Ariane prices are 2 and 3 times those the actual commonly used price of the Falcon 9.

It’s very unlikely commercial space companies will be willing to pay these prices. Sure governmental agencies could buy them at those prices since they are used to launch companies charging them twice what commercial satellite companies are charged. But that’s not sufficient for a multi-billion dollar launcher development. The likely result is ArianeSpace will be driven to the brink of bankruptcy just like ULA was.

Important also is ArianeSpace has admitted they won’t field a reusable launcher until the 2030’s, making it even harder for them to survive that length of time using expendables.

But there is a solution! When reading about JAXA upgrading the H-IIa launcher to the H-IIb by adding a second cryogenic engine to the first stage, I was surprised it was not some billion dollar development but only ~$200 million(27 billion yen). Then a key question to ask of anyone at ArianeSpace, ESA, CNES, or DLR, is how much would it cost to add a second Vulcain to the Ariane 5 or 6 core?

Because of the similarity in size to the H-IIa/b it likely would also be in the $200 million range, and actually likely even less since there were multiple systems upgraded on the H-IIa that amounted to that $200 million charge, not just adding a core engine.

But if you run the numbers such a two Vulcain no SRB Ariane could get the same payload as the current two SRB version of the Ariane 62. But the price would be much less. The reason is those newly developed SRB’s are so expensive.

So could you put these uncomfortable questions to those in leadership in European space: How much would be the development cost of just adding another Vulcain to the Ariane 5 or 6? How much does the price of the two new SRB’s add to the price of the Ariane? How much would the price for the two Vulcain Ariane be without SRB’s?

Robert Clark

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Discussing the the theoretical qualities of the Ariane 6 rocket seems to me a distraction from all the issues with ESA and ArianeGroup that lead to delays in even starting the project. The commercial, political, administrative, and juridical delays doomed it from flying on its target date from the start.

Yes, after claiming 'insured independent launch' as primary motivation for its funding, it failed. But that too is institutional; not keeping Ariane 5 in production till Ariane 6 succeeded a flight should have been impossible. Especially after all the subsidies for both rockets, and /knowing/ it was behind on schedule. (By comparison, the US Space Force can kick off all commercial payloads from Atlas 5 if Vulcan is not ready.)

But aside from that, Europe has always covered its risk to rocket issues by using foreign launchers. From ESA spreading risk by partnering with other agencies for launching some missions, to Arianespace joining the Launch Services Alliance in 2003. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Launch_Services_Alliance

It is unfortunate that none of the others are launching either. But as you rightly point out, Europe is not alone in that.

As to the Ariane 6 rocket, I think it probably would have been a perfectly usable rocket had it flown in 2020 as contracted.

We can not know if Ariane 6 will be a reliable rocket till it starts flying.

Moreover, as your reporting has highlighted, we have little insight in any technical holdups to why it is not flying yet.

But if the cost reduction compared to Ariane 5 would have been enough to earn back the investment over its lifetime, I doubt.

(Compared to keep subsidizing Ariane 5 and go all-in on Prometheus)

That ArianeGroup kept delaying its production suggests it was not confident in winning launch contracts even then. (But that may have been partially due to the GEOosat crisis.)

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Politico's reporting on Europe has really declined in quality lately. It's all clickbait and opinion pieces masked as professional reporting.

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Good write up. I had come across that article and it immediately struck me a click-bait. Sad thing is, the damage is done, misleading information has already spread.

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