Author Topic: Space Intel Report - Squaring the circle: Europe wants launcher autonomy and low  (Read 1853 times)

Offline calapine

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I was told to start a new thread for this, so here it is:

ESA held a round-table discussion about the future of institutional launches in Europe which offered a rare glimpse behind the curtain.

The video of the meeting can be downloaded here:

ROUND TABLE ON THE ROLE OF EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS IN THE EXPLOITATION OF ARIANE 6 AND VEGA-C

Which leads to what I wanted to post: For those that didn't (or don't to) watch the entire 1.5 hour long meeting, Peter B. Selding produced a good write-up which contains the gist of the arguments presented.

Space Intel Report - Squaring the circle: Europe wants launcher autonomy and low launch prices


Quite an interesting read and I am similarly curious about the NSF community's opinion.  :)
« Last Edit: 06/23/2017 04:58 PM by calapine »

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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I tried to (re)start this discussion in the update topic. But I agree it deserves a dedicated topic.
Before I give my view on this, I think we need more details about the act.
To persuade Germany in 2014 a document was drafted that would show the investment in Ariane 6 could be earned back with lower launch cost. The document is included twice in the A6 update topic

From the document you can conclude that Arianespace decided to increase the price difference between A62 and A64. A64 is optimized for tandem GTO ComSat launches. A62 is developed for EU/ESA institutional payloads.
Based on the cost of the launches a A62 would cost ~80mln and an A64 ~100mln.
Arianespace decided to offer A62 at 70mln and A64 at 115mln.
These numbers are in 2014 Euro's, inflation (6 year 2%) would lead to a 12.6% increase.
So 70 => 79mln | 115 => 129.5mln euro in 2020.
That's what I wanted to add as backgound info.

Now my view on the round table and the discussion.
I agree independent acces to space is a necessity, no discussion about that.
(Comsat tech 70's, Sentinel 5P & 3B, PAZ, QB50, Expert, and the EUMETSAT example in the video; are examples  of payloads that had difficulty to be launched because they used a foreign launch provider. (US; EURockot, Dnepr, ...). I hope for Germany and Spain that SpX can finally maintain schedule, otherwise four of their payloads slip (again).

During the round table I saw four different views about the buy European launchers act. (I think 'buy Arianespace launchers act' better covers the context.).
1) Fully backers, that have protectionism as motivation (Arianespace, France, Italy)
2) Germany and EUMETSAT have concerns about the effect the act could have. (Expansive launchers, reliability, no (stimulus for a) good launch product.
3) Is this allowed by EU anti-trust law ? (EU / Germany).
4) Are other companies dumping their launchers on the open market? (Arianespace, backed by an example from Italy)
So is there a fair open global launch market?

I'm also interested in the views of EU/ESA member-states that don't have a stake in Ariane 6 or Vega. For example Poland or Bulgaria. In my opinion their national (large) satellites should be excluded from this act.

I've three concerns. The first one was named during the table discussion.
Arianespace wants commitments for five annual Ariane 6 launcher (or payloads I don't know exactly) and two Vega (C) launches. But is the institutional demand this large, and does this offering match with the payload requirement.
The tabel in the document states far to many Galileo launches. I think A62 can launch four at once (~3.5mT MEO 23200km) With a minimal requirement for 24 satellites (3x 8 sats) and a minimal live expectancy of 12years gives me one launch every other year, instead of each year a launch. I think Vega C could orbit a single sat, so early replacement in case of failure with a VegaC. (Vega E will certainly be able to orbit a Galileo sat.)
Also the Sentinel 1A&B satellites weight 2300kg. Vega C+ will be able to orbit 2200kg, so with 100kg mass saving on Sentinel 1C&D, they can be orbited by Vega C instead of Soyuz/Ariane 6. Ariane 62 is most likely ~7mT to 700km Polar, so ridiculously over powered for the Sentinel 1 sats. (does this generate acceleration problems?)

So what will happen when less A6 and more Vega launchers are required? Lets say 4x A6 and 3x VegaC/E.
The act gives a discount on A62 launches, the A64 are more expansive. I can only match the requirement with a lot of Mil/GovSatCom satellites. Single GTO launches are possible with A62 (~4.5mT), A64 is most likely able to orbit ~11mT of net. satellite mass. If I'm not mistaken Falcon 9 does ~5mT with stage reuse (barge landing), for $50mln. EUMETSAT MTG (GTO satellites weight ~4.2mT) I guess a 4.5mT on A64 would cost ~55mln, a 6.5mT would cost 75mln. (could have been 45mln and 70 mln)
What happens when launch prices lower further? Could Arianespace comply to the act when they hardly get commercial launches. And will the act be followed when mega constellaties require many annual launches. ELC-4 is designed for at most 18 annual launches, if I'm not mistaken. I think the max launch rate is determined by the CSG solid casting facilities. Will arianespace increase launch price when the demand is to high?

My third concern is the offering of rideshare to institutional payloads, to fill the overcapacity of the launches. The act only applies to Vega (C/E) and Ariane 6. These rideshare launches could be offered at very low prices.
But what if small launchers are developed in Europe? If these small launchers are managed by Arianespace there is no problem. But when independent companies offer small launch services (20-800kg to SSO). Could this lead to unfair competition? The EU has the task to act to garante a fair EU internal market.

So to conclude;
The devil is in the details of the buy European/Arianespace launchers act.
I'm Dutch so my oppinion is closer to Germany than to France and Italy. I think the act has to deal with the concerns. Yes, we in europe/esa should support our launch industry and we should favor our launchers.  But the offered launch services should have a fair price and good quality. (I think, the price-quality Arianespace offers is very good at this moment, and will most likely improve with Ariane 6 and Vega C/E.
I'm for open market. So we should prevent dumping rideshare services.

As written on my earlier post, I look forward to reading other opinions.

Offline kato

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Ariane 62 is most likely ~7mT to 700km Polar, so ridiculously over powered for the Sentinel 1 sats.
Sentinel-1 is more the exception though. The Sentinel-4 (MTG-S) and Sentinel-5 (MetOP-SG) series are too heavy for Vega-C at around 2.8-4.0 tons to SSO, and in my opinion those four plus the four MTG-I from EUMETSAT are prime payloads for Ariane 62 in the first half of the 2020s.

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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Ariane 62 is most likely ~7mT to 700km Polar, so ridiculously over powered for the Sentinel 1 sats.
Sentinel-1 is more the exception though. The Sentinel-4 (MTG-S) and Sentinel-5 (MetOP-SG) series are too heavy for Vega-C at around 2.8-4.0 tons to SSO, and in my opinion those four plus the four MTG-I from EUMETSAT are prime payloads for Ariane 62 in the first half of the 2020s.

Wrong. the Sentinel 4 and 5 are the odd ones in the sentinel program. Sentinel 1; 2; 3 and 6 (Jason-CS) are all dedicated satellites with a 1-2.3mT total mass. Sentinel 4 & 5 are hosted payloads on EUMETSAT polar (5) and GTO (4) satellites. Sentinel 5P (a gap filler) is <1mT. ESA is studying other sentinel series, those will also weigh less than 2.2mT.  (for example: Grace-Gen3 | SWOT-FO | multiple small spectrometer or CO2/Methane measuring sats)

I could imagine a situation that the sentinel series move towards giant satellites (>15mT and a >20year live span). This is a combination of ATV with Bartolomeo, a serviceable satellite with exchangeable payloads. These polar orbit satellites will be serviced every ~5years, some sensors will be added or exchanged with each servicing visit. In this scenario there would only be 2 or 4 giant Sentinels that also replace the METOP satellites.
Each sentinel project is a sensor development that will be hosted on the giant satellite.
The reasoning behind this, is the requirement of an EDRS terminal on most sentinels. To decrease the total number of required EDRS terminals all sensors are clustered on a single satellite. Multiple are needed for fast revision times.
« Last Edit: 06/24/2017 06:29 PM by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline savuporo

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Try and seriously sponsor more internal competition for new launch providers. PLD Space, Nammo appear to have relatively credible bids for getting to orbit with microlaunchers.

Like, this sounded like a good plan: http://www.small-launcher.eu
Have they done anything at all ?
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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Try and seriously sponsor more internal competition for new launch providers. PLD Space, Nammo appear to have relatively credible bids for getting to orbit with microlaunchers.

Like, this sounded like a good plan: http://www.small-launcher.eu
Have they done anything at all ?

PLDspace has an engine test stand in Spain. two fight-weight combustion chambers have resently been delivered to them, according to this tweet.
The liquid engine of the SMILE project will be tested on the PLD test stand.
Nammo has tested multiple times there flight weight engine. And will launch a sounding rocket at the end of this year.

SMILE and Altair are EU-Horizon 2020 funded development programs.

DLR jointly with IAE (Brazil) have conducted engine test at the end of 2016 of two 75kN LOx-EtOH engines. Yesterday I read about OrbEx, and I can name at least five more small launcher initiatives.
So it is likely one of those launchers get developed eventually.

Offline gospacex

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In short, Ariane tries to prevent governments of EU (their orbital payloads) to "desert" to SpaceX.

Offline gospacex

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Funnily, with all this talk about "launcher autonomy", they have no qualms about using Soyuz from Guiana.

Online gongora

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Funnily, with all this talk about "launcher autonomy", they have no qualms about using Soyuz from Guiana.

Soyuz fills a gap for them now between Vega and Ariane 5.

Offline savuporo

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I've listened to 60% of it so far, but the other thing i heard raised was - if we jump in, there has to be a continuous competitiveness evaluation, nobody expects a static situation on launch market for next 100 years.
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline Chasm

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I've seen most of the round table and found it interesting that in the US with the high percentage of institutional launches commercial is viewed as subsidized (see differences in both SpaceX and ULA pricing) while in Europe with mostly commercial launches politicians wants cheaper (= subsidized) prices for institutional launches.... Nice conundrum.

There is only a very lopsided market for institutional launches (which includes governmental). The US market is by far the largest one and they must buy internally. We have also heard previously that horse trading between institutions like the James Webb Space telescope will not happen again in the US. (Or else!)
Commercial launches are not really free either, ITAR (and similar) restrictions apply. There are exceptions but those can end at any time.

In the past Europe was not able to launch everything with Arianespace launchers, that is getting better.
Doing the same as the US and forcing all institutional launches into an internal market is tempting but not that great. Arianespace (and the launcher division of ESA) needs pressure to keep up with the market. Looking at the speed of new developments they also need a fire lit under them.
I wonder if there is a middle way. Maybe limit institutional launches to rockets from nations that that also buy them in part from from Europe, bid them internationally or at least do some horse trading.


Ariane 62 seems to be overpowered for most payloads. I guess the answer is to launch more things. Give excess payload to educational users or even auction it off for cheap. With Vinci fancy orbital maneuvers are possible and payloads can get to different destinations.
Big question is of course how to do that without killing off the small sat launchers that are trying to emerge...

Offline woods170

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In short, Ariane tries to prevent governments of EU (their orbital payloads) to "desert" to SpaceX.
Exactly. Nothing new though because similar arrangements were put in place for Ariane 2/3, Ariane 4 and Ariane 5.
« Last Edit: 06/25/2017 10:58 AM by woods170 »

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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I havn't named one aspect of the buy european act.
Currently the ESA member-states pay around 100mln annually to keep CSG oparational. With annually around 11 or 12  Ariane 6 and 3 or 4 Vega launches this isn't required anymore.
(Nasa and USAF also pay the operational cost of the east and west coast ranges.)
Currently Arianespace sells around six annual Ariane5 ECA launches. To come to the 11 number, five additional launches are required. Arianespace and ESA want a fixed minimal amount of 5 institutional Ariane 6 payloads to fill these additional launches.

I think there is a huge difference between the situation in the US and what this buy Arianespace act involves.
In the US, institutions are forced to buy American launches. From 1990-2010 there was only one provider; ULA. their cost spiraled out of control. Now with SpaceX, OATK and most likely in the future BO competition is coming back, an thus the price drop. BUT, SpaceX is selling their launcher at higher fares to US-institutions then what they say their commercial prices are.
This buy guaranteed basic demand for Ariane 6 and Vega launches from EU institutions involve discounted launch cost. So EU institutions get lower prices by clustering their launch order and thus generate a guaranteed demand of launches from Arianespace. (Not unlike the USAF ULA block buy.)

And no, the point that commercial launches are offered at lower prices then institutional launches, is not only to the US. China, India and Russia also do this. If I'm not mistaken the USA accuses India of selling PSLV (rideshare) launches at lower prices then their launch cost.
The document form 2014 also shows that launch prices for institutional Soyuz launches went up very fast. That's why ESA/EU decided to make Ariane5ES suitable to orbit four Galileo satellites at ones.

I think that the act will be part of the Launchers_LEAP program. EU/ESA institution buy a fixed annual amount of launchers at discounted launch costs. And the industry develops improvements to the Ariane/Vega launchers, with a part of the development cost carried by the industry. (Now ESA/the member-states pay the developments fully.)
I think that the satellite development and launch procurement timelines are long enough to arrange the launcher that are part of the act during the ministerial conferences. If this is the case, than it's actually very much like the block buy that ULA got from the USAF. This would mean that every two years the details of the buy Arianespace act can be adjusted.

I'm for the act if it is implemented with adjustment mechanism. 
« Last Edit: 06/25/2017 05:14 PM by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline gospacex

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I havn't named one aspect of the buy european act.
Currently the ESA member-states pay around 100mln annually to keep CSG oparational. With annually around 11 or 12  Ariane 6 and 3 or 4 Vega launches this isn't required anymore.
(Nasa and USAF also pay the operational cost of the east and west coast ranges.)
Currently Arianespace sells around six annual Ariane5 ECA launches. To come to the 11 number, five additional launches are required. Arianespace and ESA want a fixed minimal amount of 5 institutional Ariane 6 payloads to fill these additional launches.

I think there is a huge difference between the situation in the US and what this buy Arianespace act involves.
In the US, institutions are forced to buy American launches. From 1990-2010 three was only one provider; ULA. their cost spiraled out of control. Now with SpaceX, OATK and most likely in the future BO competition is coming back, an thus the price drop. BUT, SpaceX is selling their launcher at higher fares to US-institutions then what they say their commercial prices are.
This buy guaranteed basic demand for Ariane 6 and Vega launches from EU institutions involve discounted launch cost. So EU institutions get lower prices by clustering their launch order and thus generate a guaranteed demand of launches from Arianespace. (Not unlike the USAF ULA block buy.)

And no, the point that commercial launches are offered at lower prices then institutional launches, is not only to the US. China, India and Russia also do this. If I'm not mistaken the USA accuses India of selling PSLV (rideshare) launches at lower prices then their launch cost.
The document form 2014 also shows that launch prices for institutional Soyuz launches went up very fast. That's why ESA/EU decided to make Ariane5ES suitable to orbit four Galileo satellites at ones.

I think that the act will be part of the Launchers_LEAP program. EU/ESA institution buy a fixed annual amount of launchers at discounted launch costs. And the industry develops improvements to the Ariane/Vega launchers, with a part of the development cost carried by the industry. (Now ESA/the member-states pay the developments fully.)
I think that the satellite development and launch procurement timelines are long enough to arrange the launcher that are part of the act during the ministerial conferences. If this is the case, than it's actually very much like the block buy that ULA got from the USAF. This would mean that every two years the details of the buy Arianespace act can be adjusted.

I'm for the act if it is implemented with adjustment mechanism.

"From 1990-2010 three was only one provider; ULA. their cost spiraled out of control". Lets do this again!

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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@GoSpaceX; ESA/EU member-states opted to develop Ariane 62 to get rid of relying on Soyuz.

The reason for this is that in the past ~5 years all three shared launch service arrangements turned out to have problems. the launch cost of soyuz increased by at least 50%. Dnepr can't launch anymore because of the Russia-Ukraine situation. The same is valid for EURockot, Russia will very likely stop the Rockot launch offering, I hope after both Sentinel 5P and 3B have been launched. But I fear...

I agree Ariane 62 is over powered for the required launches. But developing new engines takes to long. In 2010 Arianespace/DLR/CNES expected that the new Chinese Long March rockets, the Russian Angara rockets, SeaLaunch and SpaceX would increase competition on the commercial launch market. Only SpaceX  really materialized as threat, but Sea-launch and the reliability problems of Proton ment that Arianespace didn't loose market share.
The USA ITAR regulations prohibit China and India from competing in the commercial launch market.

I think Arianespace can offer a very attractive launch offering with Ariane 64; A62, Vega C and later other launcher configurations. I've written down how to take care the launch cost of Arianespace won't spiral out of controll. This act is one of the measures to guarantee that Arianespace can offer a compatible launch product. When their launch cadens is to low, launch cost will increase, because the fixed cost have to be spread out over less launches.

May I suggest to read the reasoning behind the start of the Europa and Ariane launchers program.
I think you'll get why Europe wants independent acces to space, and why we go against our own 'open market' principle to guarantee it.
« Last Edit: 06/25/2017 05:31 PM by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline calapine

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And no, the point that commercial launches are offered at lower prices then institutional launches, is not only to the US. China, India and Russia also do this. If I'm not mistaken the USA accuses India of selling PSLV (rideshare) launches at lower prices then their launch cost.
The document form 2014 also shows that launch prices for institutional Soyuz launches went up very fast. That's why ESA/EU decided to make Ariane5ES suitable to orbit four Galileo satellites at ones.

Random factoid: Europe used to do this too. An Ariane 1 launch was sold for $60m to US customers and $75m to Europeans. The difference was used to finance the CSG operations.

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