KOUROU, French Guiana — Arianespace Chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall says newcomer still has to prove itself and that China poses no competitive challenge to his company in the satellite launch business.
“SpaceX speaks a lot, but they don’t launch a lot. That is a fact,” Le Gall says. Arianespace, meanwhile, plans to have 10 launches from French Guiana this year: seven for Ariane 5, two for Soyuz and one for Vega.
Le Gall also says the U.S. government’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) have effectively stopped China from becoming a player in the international satellite launch business. ITAR means firms are barred from shipping satellites to China for launch if they contain U.S. parts deemed to have civil and military applications.
Le Gall says even if ITAR restrictions are eased, China is unlikely to become an international player. “They still have a lot to learn before they become a real player in the commercial market,” he says.
But adversity can be a catalyst for innovation., for example, built an ITAR-free satellite last year for European operator Eutelsat and it was launched on a Chinese Long March rocket.