Arianespace reported 2014 revenue of €1.399 billion, a 41% increase over 2013 revenue of €989 million. The primary reason for the increased revenues was that the overall flight rate was up, with 11 launches being conducted: six launches of Ariane 5, four launches of Soyuz and one launch of Vega. Meanwhile efforts continue at trimming the cost of the current Ariane 5 have been at least partially successful.
It hopes that the proposed variants of the new Ariane 6, Ariane 62 and 64 – effectively low cost two and four booster descendants of the Ariane 5 – will be much more competitive than their predecessor. Airbus Safran Launchers and Arianespace are also reported to be examining a six booster version (the Ariane 66) with a dual satellite capable GTO payload capability up to 13,000kg.
Airbus Safran Launchers has reportedly bid €3.215 billion to ESA with a contribution of €400 million from themselves to build the Ariane 6 launch vehicle. The figure does not include the construction of a new launch pad.
Arianespace needs this new low cost launch vehicle as soon as it can get it. While strictly not a profit making organisation, the company nevertheless announced profits for 2014 of €3 million. However, this was after an ESA cash infusion of €100 million. In other words, the true state of Arianespace is that it is loss making.
Meantime, the resistance to the joint Airbus/Safran consolidation plan to take over the launch provider from the other shareholders including the French Space agency and major shareholder CNES, is likely to end. CNES is currently led by Jean-Yves Le Gall, former head of Arianespace. The deal in which Airbus Safran Launchers will take over their 34% shareholding is now expected to go through – taking the Airbus Safran Launchers stock to a controlling shareholding of 74%, though a final price and a final allocation has yet to be set. It remains a possibility that a small shareholding will be retained by CNES who currently own the Kourou launch site where Arianespace’s rockets fly from.
Gaining control of Arianespace remains very attractive to Airbus Defence and Space in that it will be more able to offer attractive “turnkey” satellite construction-to-final-orbit contracts similar to those currently offered by China Great Wall Industries Corp (CGWIC).