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On the record with Arianespace
by Staff Writers
Paris, France (SPX) Dec 08, 2011

Jean-Yves Le Gall.

Arianespace Chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall and members of the company's management team are in Washington, DC this week for their traditional year-end visit and holiday event. While in the US national capital city, Le Gall provided his overview on Arianespace's competitive position in the launch services marketplace, and looked forward to activities in 2012.

Question: With Soyuz' successful introduction in French Guiana in October and the maiden flight of Vega targeted for early 2012, how do you see the synergy of these three launch systems contributing to Arianespace's efficiency and capabilities in meeting its motto: "Any payload, to any orbit... anytime"?

Jean-Yves Le Gall: In fact, operating three launch systems in French Guiana creates extraordinary opportunities.

First of all, this allows Arianespace to orbit all types of payloads, from the largest - such as the Automated Transfer Vehicle, which weighs in at 20 metric tons and is launched by Ariane 5 - to the smallest.

The smaller-sized Earth observation and scientific satellites are accommodated by Vega, while Soyuz handles the medium-sized payloads.

Such a broad capability enhances Arianespace's competitiveness through its launch operations in French Guiana, which in turn creates synergies with the industrial teams that work with the three launch systems, thereby offering cost reductions for the benefit of our clients.

Question: How do you see the "mix" of launches evolving in 2012 and during the next few years, taking into account such factors as the availability of medium- and large-sized telecommunications satellites in Arianespace's manifest for Ariane 5, the successful phase-in of Soyuz at French Guiana, and Vega's upcoming introduction?

Jean-Yves Le Gall: Our objective is to conduct approximately six-to-seven Ariane 5 launches annually, along with two-to-four Soyuz flights and one-to-two Vega missions.

This is coherent with our current order book backlog, which is composed of 21 launches for Ariane 5, along with 14 missions for Soyuz in French Guiana, and five Vega flights pre-ordered by the European Space Agency through its VERTA program.

Question: What is the status of the Ariane 5 enhancement program to increase its dual-launch lift capability to 9.25 metric tons starting in 2012, and how will this further contribute to Arianespace's flexibility in payload scheduling?

Jean-Yves Le Gall: This payload lift enhancement program is on track, and Arianespace will be able to conduct launches at this capability beginning in 2012, which once again will confirm Ariane 5 as the world's most flexible launcher.

In fact, we will be able to launch the largest satellites, accompanied by spacecraft of smaller sizes, which is to the advantage of our customers who will have the advantage of the best offer in the market.

Question: Arianespace continues to maintain the launch services industry's largest order book. How do you assess Arianespace's performance in 2011, and what is your outlook for 2012 and beyond?

Jean-Yves Le Gall: So far in 2011, Arianespace has signed 10 contracts for launches of geostationary satellites, along with one order to orbit a large scientific payload, which corresponds to six launches using the Ariane 5.

In a marketplace that is stable - and with its heightened competition - this performance is absolutely remarkable. By year-end, we expect to be announcing new contracts for launches using both Soyuz and Vega.

With our record of reliability - which, I want to remind everyone, includes 46 consecutive successes with Ariane 5 - along with Soyuz' introduction in French Guiana on the planned date and the upcoming initiation of Vega operations, I am certain 2012 will be as great as 2011 was.

Question: Many of the payloads in Arianespace's order book are telecom satellites that serve the global, digital, interactive and mobile world, providing such services as high definition TV, Internet broadband connectivity and mobile communications. With today's global financial crisis, do you see the demand for such satellites changing or evolving, and if so, how will this affect launch services providers such as Arianespace?

Jean-Yves Le Gall: The market really isn't changing, and in no case is there a downturn, because the demand continues - whether it be through the need for satellite television and evolving services, such as high definition and 3D, along with Internet from the sky and mobile communications, creating even more demand.

Therefore, there is a long-term demand for approximately 20 satellites to launch annually, with Arianespace expected to win about half of this total for its own order book.

Question: How do you see the launch services market demand evolving in the U.S., and what is your view of possible long-term competition from the new American space transportation systems currently being developed with the support of significant U.S. government spending?

Jean-Yves Le Gall: Arianespace's unofficial motto is: "Launches speak louder than words!" These days, however, I hear a lot of "words" but I don't see too many "launches." I believe that before these new systems become real competitors, they'll need to show they can launch reliably and regularly, and at competitive prices.

This is what Arianespace does today, and it will take many years for our competitors to reach this point. It's important to recall that Ariane 5 performed its maiden flight in 1996, and entered operational service in 2005. It takes time to have a proven system such as ours, which makes me believe that Arianespace will continue to lead the pack in launch services.

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