|Formerly||Airbus Safran Launchers|
|Founded||January 1, 2015|
|Founder||Airbus Defence and Space, Safran|
Number of locations
|13 main locations and facilities|
|Revenue||€3.0 billion (2016)|
Number of employees
|Footnotes / references|
ArianeGroup, formerly Airbus Safran Launchers, is a joint venture of the European aerospace company Airbus and the French group Safran formed in 2015. It consists of three core businesses: aerospace (orbital propulsion systems and equipment), defence and security with the objective of development and subsequent production of Ariane 6.
ArianeGroup's principal sites in 2016 were Issy-les-Moulineaux, Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, Kourou (space center), Vernon, Le Haillan and Les Mureaux in France as well as Lampoldshausen, Bremen and Ottobrunn in Germany.
The formation of ArianeGroup is closely connected to both the development of the Ariane 6 heavy-lift launcher during the 2010s, as well as the space manufacturing aligned interests of two European aerospace companies, Airbus and Safran. During June 2014, Airbus and Safran approached the European Space Agency (ESA) with its own proposal for the Ariane 6 programme, the establishment of a 50/50 joint venture to develop the rocket, which would also involve buying out the French government's CNES interest in Arianespace.
The company was established on 1 January 2015, with headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris. At the time of formation, ArianeGroup's principal sites were Issy-les-Moulineaux, Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, Kourou (space center), Vernon, Le Haillan and Les Mureaux in France as well as Lampoldshausen, Bremen and Ottobrunn in Germany.[full citation needed][non-primary source needed] During 2016,[clarification needed] the company's CEO was Alain Charmeau and the Chairman of the Board was Marc Ventre.
The reorganization of a major portion of Europe's space industry, which led to the creation of ArianeGroup, generated both close scrutiny and a level of controversy. French newspaper La Tribune published a scathing article, questioning whether Airbus could deliver on the promised costs for their Ariane 6 proposal, and whether Airbus and Safran Group could be trusted when they were found to be responsible for a failure of Ariane 5 flight 517 in 2002 and the failure of the M51 ballistic missile in 2013. The companies were also criticized for being unwilling to incur development risks, and asking for higher initial funding than originally planned - €2.6 billion instead of €2.3 billion. Estimated launch prices of €85 million for Ariane 6.1 and €69 million for Ariane 6.2 did not compare favorably to SpaceX offerings. A review was performed by the French government, focusing upon the company's tax affairs, while the European Commission conducted its own probe into a possible conflict of interest if Airbus, which is also active as a satellite manufacturer, was put into the position of purchasing launches upon launchers manufactured by itself.[needs update]
As of 2018[update], Alain Charmeau remained as chair of ArianeGroup, and the group was producing three existing rockets: the Ariane 5, Vega, and a European version of the Russian Soyuz, while pursuing development of the Ariane 6, and building a massive new launch pad facility at the Guiana Space Centre.
By February 2019, Ariane Group and the French government space agency CNES began work on a new "acceleration platform" called ArianeWorks to develop new launchers, including reusable ones, which included teams from both companies working "under one roof." The joint operation was to have a more flexible working environment than traditional Ariane projects, and was intended to explicitly be open to "new players and internationally." By September 2019, the results from two low-cost demonstrators were expected soon, and a more robust flight demonstrator called Themis was projected to one day make use of some parts of the earlier demonstration projects and would use the larger reusable Prometheus rocket engine. The Themis prototype was to be built by Paris prototyping company MyCTO. In the event, the ESA contracted with ArianeGroup in December 2020 to build the Themis resusable rocket stage demonstrator, and provided an initial €33 million for the first development phase. The program objective is to be able to demonstrate to European governments by 2022 a range of technologies needed to meet European reusable rocket technology needs such that competitive launcher options could be developed in Europe to compete in the 2030s global launch market.
ArianeGroup's subsidiary, Arianespace, operates and markets commercial launch services for the Ariane rocket family, an expendable launch system which is used to deliver payloads into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) or low Earth orbit (LEO). According to Arianespace, at the time of its establishment in 1980, it was the world's first launch services company. By early 1986, the Ariane 1, along with its Ariane 2 and Ariane 3 derivates, had become the dominant launcher on the global market. Since then, the improved Ariane 4 and Ariane 5 launchers have been successfully introduced by Arianespace.
In addition to the Ariane heavy-lift launcher, Arianespace also has a portfolio of smaller launch vehicles, including the Soyuz-2 as a medium-lift alternative, and the solid-fueled Vega for lighter payloads. Arianespace uses the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana as its main launch site.
While Arianespace handles the operation of the Ariane 5, its parent ArianeGroup is the primary contractor for the manufacture of this launcher. It has also been responsible for enhancements and further development of the platform; one project, known as the Ariane 5 ME (Mid-life Evolution) was underway until late 2014, at which point the ESA halted funding for development to instead prioritize work on the new generation Ariane 6 launcher.
On 12 August 2015, the European Space Agency (ESA) appointed Airbus Safran Launchers as the principal contractor with the new development of the Ariane 6. Amongst other factors, the ESA is reportedly keen to maximise the potential commonalities between the Ariane 6 and Vega launchers. During January 2016, the basic design was finalized, advancing the work into the detailed design and production phases. On 6 May 2019, Arianespace ordered the first production batch of 14 Ariane 6 launchers; these are intended for missions to be conducted between 2021 and 2023.
ArianeGroup is the prime contractor for the M51, a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) operated by the French Navy, being responsible for development, manufacture, system support, and end-of-life disposal of the missiles, in addition to delivering both the land-based operating infrastructure and the submarine-based command and control systems. During May 2016, Airbus and Safran announced an agreement for ArianeGroup to undertake modification work to upgrade the M51 to the M51.3 standard.
During January 2019, it was announced that ArianeGroup was developing a hypersonic glide vehicle under the project V-Max. Forecast for delivery during 2021, its delivery shall make France the second European nation after Russia to develop its own hypersonic weapons.
The Orbital Propulsion Centre, a division of the ArianeGroup, is located in Lampoldshausen, Germany. The Lampoldshausen facility is the European centre of excellence for spacecraft propulsion. The centre supplies complete propulsion systems, subsystems and component parts for satellites, orbital spacecraft, interplanetary spacecraft, re-entry vehicles, resupply missions to the International Space Station and currently the NASA / ESA Orion European Service Module. The majority of ESA satellites and spacecraft have reportedly incorporated thruster or other components that have been produced at Lampoldshausen.
European space-hardware builders Airbus and Safran have proposed that the French and European space agencies scrap much of their previous 18 months' work on a next-generation Ariane 6 rocket in favor of a design that includes much more liquid propulsion.