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LAUNCH PAD
Arianespace says 2012 sales leapt by 30%
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Jan 08, 2013


The European space launch company Arianespace said Tuesday that 2012 sales rose 30 percent and forecast that it would dominate Russian and US rivals this year with a market share of more than 60 percent.

Arianespace sales soared to more than 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion), and the company said that it already covered 60 percent of the global market last year, bringing its order book to 4.0 billion euros, or three years worth of activity.

This year, the company plans 12 launches with three different vehicles, the giant Ariane 5 rocket, the smaller Vega, and the Russian rocket Soyuz, up from 10 in 2012, chief executive Jean-Yves Le Gall told a press conference.

He called 2012 a "remarkable" year, noting that the company had launched seven Ariane 5 rockets to mark its 10th consecutive year without a failure, and had put a total of 75 tonnes of satellites into orbit.

Arianespace could even surpass 12 launches this year if one of its rivals is unable to honour their contracts, Le Gall noted, joking: "When they sign contracts we are the one that launches the satellites."

Competitors include the private US firm SpaceX, which developed its own launch vehicle over a period of 10 years and successfully delivered a payload last year to the International Space Station with its reusable Dragon launch vehicle.

The Russian rocket Proton has had a spotty launch record meanwhile, but its successor Angara is set for its first launch this year.

Elsewhere, the US-Russian company Sea Launch is in financial trouble, while Chinese rockets are not yet serious rivals for Arianespace.

The European group still depends on subsidies from countries that have backed it from the beginning, but Le Gall estimated that it needed a little more than 100 million euros last year, down from 125 million a year before, and 250 million 10 years earlier.

Ariane 5 to be replaced by an Ariane 6 rocket, pending confirmation of that project next year, and Arianespace forecasts that it would then be profitable without public aid.

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LAUNCH PAD
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