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ArianeGroup boss throws shade

Europe in Space
Issue 25. Subscribers: 533 
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ArianeGroup CEO takes shots at European launch startups
Over the weekend, Belgian business news outlet L'Echo published a revealing conversation with ArianeGroup CEO André-Hubert Roussel. It should be noted upfront that my version of the article has been Google translated from the original French. This obviously does mean that there may be subtleties lost in translation.
In the article, the ArianeGroup boss took aim at the numerous launch startups around Europe, decrying the fact that these companies were pulling resources away from Ariane. Roussel took aim at the German microlauncher companies Rocket Factory Augsburg, Isar Aerospace, and HyImpulse in particular, although he did not name them directly.
Interestingly, the article claims there are “more than 200 European microlauncher projects and almost as many small spaceports.” I have no idea where the author got that number from, but I don’t think there are 200 microlauncher projects globally, never mind in Europe alone. 
Additionally, while there are several spaceport proposals, that number is also dwarfed by the “more than 200” thumbsuck. The number is so ludicrous that I actually went back to the original French just to make sure there hadn’t been a glitch with Google Translate.
An honest look at the market
As far as I’m aware, the European Spaceflight Rocket Index is probably the most comprehensive look at the current European launch vehicle market. My list includes 30 different companies or organisations (not including companies working towards suborbital vehicles) developing launch vehicles, including ArianeGroup and Avio. The number is probably less than that, as I’ve been generous with a few projects that are still in the very earliest stages of development. So let’s conservatively say 25 companies that aren’t ArianeGroup and Avio.
Of those 25 companies, less than 10 have raised more than €10 million in funding, with only Isar Aerospace cracking the €100 million mark. Together, these companies have raised less than €450 million (this amount is an estimation due to the lack of public information for some of the launch startups). 
Now, let’s look at a single publicly-funded project awarded to Avio. In July, Avio received €217.5 million for a two-stage launch vehicle demonstrator and €120 million for the development of a LOX-methane first-stage engine. That’s close to €340 million for a single project, and that’s not including funding for the M10 second-stage engine or additional funding that may be awarded in the coming years.
And that’s one program. If you factor in Vega C, Vega E, Ariane 6, Themis, and Prometheus, that number soars into the billions. If anything, Avio and ArianeGroup have been given a massive leg up on the competition for no other reason than political favour developed over decades of market dominance.
Nationalism to blame
In the article, Roussel primarily blamed nationalism in Germany and Italy for the “dispersion of resources.” There’s definitely an argument that this is happening in Germany (although the country has arguably taken over its native France to become the primary benefactor for ArianeGroup), but Italy? 
Avio is an established aerospace company that plays a vital role in the European launch ecosystem, which includes its partnership with ArianeGroup to develop a common booster that is utilized on both the Vega C and Ariane 6 vehicles. So, he can’t be talking about Avio.
That just leaves, as far as I can see, Sidereus Space Dynamics, a tiny launch startup that hasn’t raised more than €2 million to date (all of which has been private funding). How this tiny startup is pulling resources away from the cash-guzzling Ariane programme is beyond me. They’re obviously punching well above their weight.
If you are talking sheer numbers of launch startups, the United Kingdom and France are your primary suspects. And in the United Kingdom following Brexit, you may even have an argument that nationalism is a primary cause. However, it’s pretty ludicrous to state that companies like Orbex and Skyrora are siphoning a significant portion of resources or even customers away from ArianeGroup and its Ariane 5 and 6 launch vehicles.  
Rules for thee
After invoking the threat of nationalism, Roussel moves on to the impact so many launch startups will have on the environment. In particular, the ArianeGroup boss takes aim at companies developing “non-reusable engines, some of which run on kerosene.” He seems to have completely forgotten that his own company’s next-gen Ariane 6 vehicle utilises non-reusable engines, including solid-fuel boosters.
Glossing over the hypocrisy, the article then pivots to sharing the virtues of ArianeGroup’s Themis and Prometheus projects that are focused on developing a LOX-methane-powered booster demonstrator. The projects are expected to form the basis of future launch vehicles, including Maia, a reusable microlauncher that is being developed by the ArianeGroup subsidiary Maiaspace. 
What’s notable about this is that ArianeGroup has received over €100 million for Prometheus alone. That’s as much as the most well-funded German microlauncher startup has raised to develop its entire vehicle, from engines to structures and everything in between.
2022 ESA ministerial council meeting
In the last paragraph of the L'Echo article, we get a clue into what promoted this conversation. Roussel states, “For these programs, decisions are needed at the next ESA ministerial meeting in November.” 
ESA is heading towards what may be one of the most important ministerial council meetings in its history. New ESA director general Josef Aschbacher has forged a progressive path for the agency since assuming the top job, with a focus on commercialization and calling on industry to step up and take a leading role in the European space effort. 
This new path for the agency promises opportunities for bold, decisive startups and pressure for entrenched stalwarts who have happily operated without competition for decades.
No gas station for the next two light years - ESA issued a tender for the Phase 0/A development of an in-orbit rendezvous and capture demonstration mission. The development of the technology will be in service of enabling in-orbit refueling capabilities for in-space transportation vehicles. The contract value is between €200,000 and €500,000 with additional funding for Phases B/C/D/E to be requested at the ESA ministerial level council meeting in November.
Making it easier than ever to blow up a rocket - ESA issued a tender for the use of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) aboard European launch vehicles to enable flight termination system automation and improved payload injection accuracy. The agency predicts that the use of GNSS aboard Ariane and Vega vehicles could improve injection accuracy in the order of 1 to 2 magnitudes. The contract value is between €200,000 and €500,000.
An old friend readies for retirement - Arianespace successfully launched the third European mission of 2022 aboard an Ariane 5. The flight carried the Thales-Alenia-Space-built Eutelsat Konnect VHTS communications satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. The satellite will provide high-speed broadband and mobile connectivity across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The launch was the fourth last expected to be launched aboard the Ariane 5 launch vehicle as Arianespace prepares to introduce both variants of its new Ariane 6 launch vehicle in 2023.
The scrappy underdogs - The Denmark-based non-profit Copenhagen Suborbitals completed the third test of a drogue parachute for the organization’s crewed Spica launch vehicle. Footage of the test shows the parachute being tested by one of the organization’s volunteers before it is released, which allows the volunteer to pull his own parachute. Spica is a suborbital launch vehicle designed to carry a single passenger over the Karman line. The vehicle’s development is being conducted by volunteers and funded by donations.
They’ve got an eye on your satellite - Italian ground segment services startup Leaf Space announced the successful commissioning of the company’s latest antenna on the Portuguese island Santa Maria. According to the company, the new antenna will increase its capability to serve low inclination satellites while providing additional capacity for SSO orbits. The 3.7-metre S/X-band antenna is the second the company has built on the Portuguese island.
I can’t hear you, we’re going through a war zone - Airbus signed 15-year contracts with the Ministries of Defence of the Netherlands and the Czech Republic to provide military communications. The Armed Forces of the Netherlands and the Czech Republic will utilize three and two channels respectively of the Airbus UHF military communications payload that will be hosted aboard the EUTELSAT 36D telecommunications satellite. The EUTELSAT 36D satellite is expected to be launched in 2024.
Is this its final form? - ESA announced that an improved version of the Galileo system’s Public Regulator Service (PRS) signal has been tested successfully. The PRS systems are designed to offer navigation and timing services to governmental users and sensitive applications even when other Galileo services might be degraded or jammed. This new version of the signal known as the Full Operational Capability Public Regulated Service (FOC PRS) will succeed an initial version of the signal next year.
They can see your bald spot from space - Finish Earth Observation data provider ICEYE has partnered with British aerospace and defence giant BAE Systems to provide advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology as part of BAE Systems’ new multi-sensor constellation launching in 2024. The four-satellite Azalea™ constellation will deliver SAR, optical, RF signals, and analysis. The ICEYE SAR technology will provide high-resolution imagery day or night in any weather conditions. 
Building satellites fast food style - ESA signed a deal with Triton-X prime contractors LuxSpace for the Demo-1 in-orbit demonstration and validation mission. Triton-X is a multi-mission European microsatellite platform product line. It is designed to give low-cost and fast-track access to space for commercial and institutional applications in low Earth orbit. The line includes light, medium and heavy versions. The project is led by LuxSpave and includes six industrial partners. The demonstration mission is expected to be launched in October 2023.
Top of the morning to you planet Earth - The EIRSAT-1 team completed environmental testing of the flight model of the satellite at ESA’s CubeSat Support Facility in Belgium. EIRSAT-1 is being developed by a team of students and staff from the University College Dublin. The satellite is designed to study gamma-ray bursts, analyze the performance of novel surface treatments, and test the capability of an attitude control algorithm that could serve as an alternative to standard attitude determination and control methods. The satellite will be Ireland’s first and is being developed with the support of the ESA Education office under its Fly your Satellite! initiative.
Is this where they faked the Moon landing? - The ESA-ESRIC-funded Space Resources Challenge was concluded with five teams competing in the second and final phase of the competition. The five teams that competed are Łukasiewicz - PIAP (Poland), ETH Zürich and University of Zürich (Germany), Mission Control (Canada), FZI Forschungszentrum Informatik (Germany), and Space Applications Services and the University of Luxembourg, Dynamic Imaging Analytics Limited, La Palma Research Centre, Universite de Lorraine, and The Open University. The teams put their robotic prototypes to the test in a specifically designed lunar analogue terrain. The winner is expected to be announced in the coming months.
So I need to do more than just recycling? - Space Scotland released what it’s calling the world’s first Space Sustainability Roadmap. The 27-page Space Sustainability: A Roadmap for Scotland document outlines 11 detailed “work packages” that represent short, medium, and long-term goals aimed at ensuring a more environmentally conscious approach in support of the country’s net zero ambitions. The work packages are organised into three areas: leadership, in-orbit environment, and net zero.
Skating? You mean like Tony Hawk? - ArianeGroup announced an interesting collaboration with French skate fashion brand Biome. The collaboration saw the release of an official ArianeGroup Biome collection that includes t-shirts, sweatshirts, and a skateboard deck. The collaboration is not a first for ArianeGroup with the company partnering with French fashion brand Avnier in 2021 to release a unique clothing collection.
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Andrew Parsonson

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