The CEO of Arianespace has said he is “absolutely certain” that Airbus Safran Launchers will be able to address the European Commission’s concerns about its takeover of the launch provider.
The CEO of Arianespace is “absolutely certain” that Airbus Safran Launchers will be able to address the European Commission’s concerns about its takeover of the launch provider.
French space agency CNES has agreed to sell its 34.68% stake to ASL, which would give the Airbus–Safran joint venture around 74% of Arianespace’s shares.
Speaking to journalists, Stéphane Israël went through the issues one by one that the Commission pinpointed when it announced its in-depth investigation into the deal in February.
The Commission has suggested the change of control could harm other satellite manufacturers competing against ASL co-owner Airbus on price or access to Arianespace.
Israël said it would be “totally detrimental” for Arianespace to have any privileged link with Airbus Satellite so he was not too concerned.
Secondly, the Commission was concerned that following the deal Arianespace could give priority access to ASL’s Ariane rocket ahead of Italian joint venture ELV‘s Vega launch vehicle.
Italian space agency ASI owns 30% of ELV, and the remaining 70% is held by rocket maker Avio, which itself owns 3.4% of Arianespace.
“Arianespace has always been committed to the success of Vega,” Israël said.
“We have made six successful Vega launches, we have taken a commercial risk on Vega, and we want to go on doing that.”
The Commission’s final concern was that Airbus and ASL may begin exclusively procuring payload adapters and dispensers from each other, regardless of the price and quality offered by competitors.
Israël said that Arianespace would maintain its policy of always choosing the best offer based on price and quality.
The Commission’s 90-working day review is set to run until 12 July.
In 2015 Arianespace completed 12 launches – six Ariane 5, three Soyuz, and three Vega – its most ever, and this year it is planning to repeat that total with eight Ariane 5, two Soyuz and two Vega.
Providing ASL eventually wins approval for its Arianespace takeover, there has been speculation it may look to acquire Vega.
Roberto Battiston, president of ASI, commented on the future ownership of Vega following the launch of the civil Exomars mission. He said that he was proud Italy was the world’s sixth spacefaring power, and to stay in that position it would have to retain independent access to space.
“We have to guarantee that European advanced launcher Vega remains Italian in word and deed,” Battison said.
“Investment fund Cinven holds more than 80% of the shares [through Avio] and it could get a large payoff by selling its shares, even to space competitors.”
Battison said, if that was to ever occur, it would “not only endanger the one billion euros of Italian public investment but it would also defeat the spacefaring Italy, forcing it to ask – and not decide – to go into orbit.”