European commercial launch provider Arianespace has announced this week a busy 2016 launch manifest, targeting up to 11 missions this year. The company plans a record number of eight flights for its workhorse Ariane 5 heavy lift vehicle. The launch schedule also includes two liftoffs of the lightweight Vega rocket, and one employing the medium-lift Russian Soyuz booster.
The first two Ariane 5 missions in 2016 - tasked with delivering Intelsat 29e (Jan. 27) and Eutelsat 65 West A (March) satellites - are single launches, carrying only one spacecraft. Other Ariane 5 flights will use the booster’s highly efficient dual-passenger capability.
“As co-passengers for Ariane 5 were not available during the first quarter, Arianespace opened a fully transparent dialog with our customers to find solutions that meet their calendar timing requirements without comprising the balance of Ariane 5 operations. The result is a win-win situation that furthers our relationships with the clients,” Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace told a press conference in Paris, France on Jan. 5.
The year-opening Intelsat 29e mission, designated Flight VA228, like all Ariane 5 flights will be launched from the Ariane Launch Area 3 at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This heavy launch vehicle will also be used to orbit four Galileo navigation satellites for the European Union (EU) and the European Space Agency (ESA) in October. Earlier, in May, Ariane 5 will loft two communications satellites – EchoStar 18 for the U.S. EchoStar Corporation and BRIsat for Indonesian Bank BRI. One customer for Ariane flight hasn’t been disclosed yet.
Vega launches will send military and commercial payloads to a sun-synchronous orbit. In July, the lightweight vehicle will launch PeruSat-1 military spacecraft for the Peruvian government, along with Skysat satellites for Google + Skybox Imaging. The second Vega mission is scheduled for December, when this booster will orbit Göktürk-1A reconnaissance satellite for the Turkish Armed Forces. These two launches will be performed from the Ariane Launch Area 1, also in Kourou.
Arianespace’s only one Soyuz launch this year is planned for Apr. 14. A Soyuz-2.1a is expected to liftoff from the Soyuz Launch Complex in Sinnamary, French Guiana, on a mission to deliver Europe’s Earth-observing Sentinel-1B satellite for the Copernicus Programme.
The company has disclosed that this year will see the creation of a new internal organization, designed to bolster project management within Arianespace, plus new corporate governance resulting from changes in its shareholding structure.
2016 will be also crucial for Arianespace’s long-term plans. The company is preparing for the future commercial introduction of Ariane 6 and Vega-C launchers. The new vehicles are expected to bring lower launch costs, increased flexibility and an enhanced response to the creation of spacecraft constellations, the demand for increased space-based connectivity and the development of all-electric satellites. Arianespace will begin commercial offers with Ariane 6 and Vega-C after their Program Implementation Review, which is expected this fall.
“These two extremely ambitious launchers are Europe’s best answer to growing competition, responding to the requirements of both our institutional customers and international commercial clients,” Israël said.
Arianespace is the world's first commercial launch service provider. It is perceived as the world’s leading satellite launch company. In 2015, it carried out 12 successful launches: six Ariane 5 flights, along with three by Soyuz and three by Vega. The successful streak boosted Arianespace’s sales to more than 1.4 billion euros.
“Arianespace is very proud of the operational and business results achieved in 2015 by our highly professional and resolutely customer-centric staff. We set new records in 2015, with 12 launches by the Arianespace family from the Guiana Space Center, sales exceeding 1.4 billion euros and orders booked worth 2.5 billion euros,” Israël noted.
Arianespace’s plans for the coming years include the first launch of Vega-C in 2018 and Ariane 6 in 2020. In his New Year’s briefing Israël also announced that his company has signed the launch services contract for two Comsat NG new-generation military communications satellites, slated to be delivered into orbit between 2020 and 2022. Another contract was inked with the French space agency CNES for the new system of CERES signals intelligence satellites, expected to be completed by 2020.