June 21, 2009

France Eyeing Replacement For Ariane 5 Launcher

France is encouraging Europe to consider building a rocket launcher that would replace the Ariane 5 between 2020 and 2025, President Nicolas Sarkozy's office announced Saturday.

Although the Ariane-5, which is considered cost-effective, has launched satellites for European telecoms operators, telescopes and scientific space observatories, the time is right to begin thinking about an Ariane 6, the president's office said in a statement.

"(Sarkozy) hopes that the first studies will begin on this new launcher, in cooperation with our European partners and the European Space Agency (ESA) with regard to decisions at the ESA ministerial meeting in 2011," the statement noted.

"Ariane 6 should be a very robust launcher with modules and optimized in terms of cost in order to best respond as much to government and commercial needs in a context of increased competition."

Recently, several operators have offered less expensive launching prices than Europe's Ariane series.

Francois Auque, Chief executive of the Astrium space unit, said that "the main value" of France's idea was to "dare to put the question" of Ariane 5's replacement.

"There was a kind of taboo in Europe... which was that it was forbidden to speak about the future, and the French prime minister has broken the taboo," said Auque.


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