Arianespace Chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall dismisses talk of consolidation among satellite makers.

“In Europe there used to only be two main manufacturers of satellites,” Le Gall told Aviation Week June 19. “A few years ago people were wondering ‘When will they merge?’ The thinking was that it was better to have one rather than two, but then we ended up with three in Europe.”

Le Gall also notes that while there are market pressures driving consolidation, the desire of many governments to establish their own satellite manufacturing capabilities should limit any large consolidation.

Arianespace currently has three types of launch vehicles. The largest is Ariane 5 followed by the medium-sized Soyuz and the smaller Vega. European governments are now considering the development of a new modular launch vehicle, the Ariane 6, or opting for an upgrade of Ariane 5.

Le Gall declines to publicly comment on the debate. But when asked about future innovation and product development in the global launch business, he says: “Changes are very risky. We are very successful because we’ve decided over the years to use the same launch vehicle [Ariane 5] with minimum changes. Our customers prefer reliability over innovation. Innovation produces benefits, but if you don’t see so much in the way of benefits, then it is better to stick to conservative solutions.”

Le Gall reiterated earlier comments (Aerospace DAILY, May 18) that Arianespace sees no threat to its commercial satellite launch business from competitors emerging from the U.S., China, India and Japan. He notes that each new sector has its own focus that differs from Arianespace’s, or, like the Chinese, are restricted by the U.S. government’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations. ITAR prevents Western-built satellites or satellite components that have technology that could be used for military purposes from being shipped to China.

“Japan has a launch vehicle that is quite impressive, but it is also quite expensive. China has issues with ITAR. India’s launch vehicle performance is still too low. The U.S., meanwhile, has big launch companies but they tend to be focused on the military, rather than the commercial marketplace,” Le Gall says.

Arianespace’s top executive also expects little competitive threat from more established aerospace companies that currently manufacture military and commercial satellites. “I’d be surprised if Boeing or Lockheed Martin moved into the commercial space launch business, because the cost of their launches is much higher than what the commercial marketplace could support.”

Ariane 5 photo: Arianespace