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Europe's Ariane rocket must develop or die: ex-CEO

by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Aug 5, 2008
Europe's Ariane rocket is headed for oblivion without new investment to equip it with a more powerful launcher, the honorary chairman and ex-CEO of Arianespace warned in an op-ed article Tuesday.

"For the first time, Ariane is clearly at risk of decline through a lack of anticipation and strong will," Frederic d'Allest wrote in Le Monde's Wednesday edition.

Allest was CEO of Arianespace, the company that launches the Ariane rocket, made by European aerospace giant EADS, from its founding in 1980 until 1990.

"No one today can seriously question the urgent need to lift the performance of Ariane 5 from nine tonnes to 12 tonnes," he said.

"The launcher is at the limit of its capacity, yet there is no more powerful version under developnment that will be ready to take over in time."

Unless action is taken, Allest said the "inevitable" result will be "the decline of Ariane in around three or four years time and its disappearance from the commercial market within a few years."

The biggest Ariane rocket, the Ariane 5 ECA, is capable of lifting a payload of up to 10 tonnes, the equivalent of two big satellites, into space.

In 2005, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) shelved plans for a bigger 12-tonne version of Ariane, citing a lack of demand.

Allest argued that it would be possible to lift the current Ariane's performance to 12 tonnes by adding an extra stage to the rocket, which he said would take "around five years" to develop.

He called on France to petition its partners in the European Space Agency to "make Ariane evolve to ensure its future" at a ministerial meeting on the space sector in November.

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