Arianespace to ramp up to full Ariane 6 rocket launch rate in 2026 - CEO
By Jamie Freed
SYDNEY, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Europe's Arianespace expects to launch its first Ariane 6 rocket by the end of the fourth quarter of 2023, but it will take until 2026 to ramp up to the full rate of to 11 per year, the company's chief executive said on Wednesday.
Arianespace, a rival to Elon Musk's SpaceX that is majority-owned by a joint venture of AIR.PA and Safran SAF.PA, has secured 29 launches for the delayed Ariane 6 programme, 18 of them for an Amazon.com AMZN.O project to beam broadband internet.
Amazon will be afor Ariane 6 Block II, a more powerful version of the rocket that is expected to receive development funding approval at a European Space Agency ministerial meeting week and enter operation in the second half of 2025, Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel said.
"It shows our ability to continuously approve the rocket," he told Reuters of Block II during a visit to Australia as part of a French business delegation.
Developed at a cost of just under 4 billion euros ($4.15 billion) and originally set for an inaugural launch in July 2020, Israel said the Ariane 6 project wasthat involved design improvements, COVID-19's impact on the workforce and suppliers as well as technical issues.
Arianespace is planning four to five Ariane 6 launches in 2024 followed by eight in 2025 before reaching its full planned rate of to 11 annually in 2026, he said, though depending on demand that could increase.
"We to think about an increased cadence in 2026 or 2027, but for that we to have a business case," he said.
Reuters last weekthat EU countries and European Parliament lawmakers are likely to reach a deal this week on a 6-billion-euro satellite internet system driven by the bloc's push to cut its dependency on foreign companies and the Ukraine war.
Israel said his company was at the EU's disposal to help deploy the satellite constellation, which could involve using both the Ariane 6 and the smaller Vega C rocket also launched by Arianespace.
($1 = 0.9641 euros)
(Reporting by Jamie Freed. Editing by Gerry Doyle)