Arianespace is positioned to continue its commercial launch services leadership in 2002 as the company introduces the increased-lift Ariane 5 and plans a busy year of missions for international customers.
Meeting with the news media today for his annual New Year's kickoff briefing, Chairman and CEO Jean-Marie Luton said Arianespace enters 2002 as a strong competitor after reinforcing its market presence last year.
In 2001, Arianespace won 13 launch contracts out of the total 25 signed during the year, Luton told reporters at this morning's briefing in Paris. "In other words, we replenished our backlog of orders and consolidated the workload for the Ariane launch system."
Arianespace ended 2001 on a strong note, signing contracts to launch satellites for Orbital Sciences Corp. of the U.S. and the European operator Eutelsat. Orbital Sciences Corp.'s order is for the launch of BSAT-2c on behalf of the Japanese operator B-SAT. B-SAT2c is a follow-on to B-SAT2a successfully lofted by Arianespace in March 2001, and the new 1,300-kg. spacecraft will feature 4 Ku-band transponders. The Eutelsat launch order is for Hot Bird 7, an Astrium-built satellite that will weigh 3,400 kg. and carry 40 Ku-band transponders.
This pair of year-end 2001 orders brings Arianespace's backlog to 51 payloads to be launched, including nine ATV missions for the International Space Station.
Arianespace also retained its operational edge last year; performing eight missions that carried 11 of the 16 geostationary satellites commercially competed for launches in 2001.
"I believe that any comparison of Arianespace with our competitors, especially those from the U.S., speaks for itself," Luton said. "In 2001, there was not a single launch of a commercial geostationary satellite from the United States. Our performance demonstrates Arianespace's unrivaled ability to guarantee access to space, no matter what contingencies may arise."
The delayed delivery of customer satellites to French Guiana last year -- which in turn reduced the number of launches -- weighed against Arianespace's financial results, Luton told reporters, which explains why the company's sales for 2001 decreased by about 30 percent compared to the previous year.
"However, very strict management enabled us to effectively oversee the work needed to prepare the resumption of Ariane 5 launches, as well as limiting the impact from delays in Ariane 5 missions," he explained. "Because of these efforts, I am pleased to announce that our [financial] results for 2001 show a spectacular recovery compared with the previous year. We have managed to limit our income loss to about 50 million Euro, versus the more than 240 million Euro in 2000. All signs indicate that we will return to break-even in 2002."
The next 12 months will be a busy period for Arianespace, with at least 12 launches planned to carry 17-19 satellites -- including five flights performed with the Ariane 5. While the actual schedule will depend on the availability of customer satellites, Luton said the Ariane production system and the Spaceport in French Guiana is ready to support the rapid mission rate.
Luton announced that late February has been set as the target for Ariane 5's return to flight. The February launch will be the 11th Ariane 5 mission, and the first since last July's Flight 142 -- when the launcher's upper stage and payload reached a lower than planned geostationary transfer orbit.
"The exhaustive analyses and tests that have been carried out [since Flight 142] confirm that the design of Ariane 5 is fundamentally sound," Luton said. "A new ignition sequence for the upper stage's Aestus engine has been defined, as have new acceptance testing procedures for Aestus."
The Aestus for the next Ariane 5 is now on the test stand in Germany for acceptance tests. These tests will clear the engine for shipment to Kourou, where it will be integrated on the Ariane 5 launcher that already has been prepared for the mission.
Arianespace's manifest for the first months of 2002 calls for an Ariane 4 launch on January 23 to open the year's mission activity. This will be Flight 147, and it will carry India's INSAT 3C payload. The next launch is an Ariane 4 mission on February 14 (Flight 148 with the Intelsat 904 payload for Intelsat), followed in late February with the Ariane 5 launch (Flight 145, carrying the European Space Agency's Envisat environmental platform).
A major milestone for 2002 will be the introduction of the improved-lift Ariane 5, with a 10 metric ton payload capability to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). "This 10-ton capacity should rapidly become the industry benchmark, ensuring that Arianespace is the only provider capable of meeting all customer requirements, no matter what size and weight payload they want to boost into orbit," he said. "The new 10-ton GTO payload capacity should be available starting with the 13th Ariane 5 launch, which is slated for this summer."
Ariane 5's payload lift increase will result from the introduction of the new ESC-A upper stage and the use of an upgraded main stage powered by the improved Vulcain 2 engine.
The performance of Ariane will be further boosted in 2006 when the launcher's payload lift capacity is increased to 12 metric tons with the use of the ESC-B upper stage. The ESC-B's final development phase was approved at last November's ministerial-level meeting of the European Space Agency, in which Europe's governments made a number of decisions to support Ariane 5's long-term viability.
"These decisions guarantee that Ariane 5 will benefit from the outgoing developments and operating conditions needed to ensure the launcher keeps pace with a fast-changing world market," Luton told reporters.
Luton said the Spaceport's infrastructure in French Guiana has been upgraded to accommodate the larger payloads for Ariane 5, as well as ensuring Arianespace can handle the launch rates necessary to meet its customers' schedules. The infrastructure improvements include the S5 payload processing facility, which was inaugurated last summer as the most modern center of its kind in the world.
In concluding his year-opening outlook for reporters, Luton called 2002 a year of transition, adding that the world's major satellite telecommunications operators have now entered an unprecedented phase of consolidation.
"They will have to complete this consolidation, while at the same time successfully completing satellite projects initiated in the past several years," he stated. "And as we all know, the telecommunications sector currently is in the midst of a crisis."
As a result, Luton anticipates a downturn in orders for the production of commercial geostationary satellites in 2002.
"However, against this backdrop of lower launch demand and greater competition, Arianespace will have a new opportunity to demonstrate the competitiveness of its commercial offering," he said. "We have a number of assets in our drive to maintain global leadership in 2002, including: our in-depth knowledge of the market; the fact that we are the only provider to cover all market requirements for the full range of satellites; the operational flexibility of Ariane 5 with its head start over the competitors, and the high quality of our launch facilities in French Guiana."
Arianespace's 2002 Outlook: A Busy Launch Year, And Introduction Of The "10 Ton" Ariane 5 Version