19 May 1998
News - Vehicles (None)
"Ariane has benefited other countries more than Europe"
Former ESA official says investment priorities are backward
by Patrick Collins
Pierre Bartholome, former head of ESA's office in Belgium argued that commercial profits from space activities have been earned from satellite operation, ground equipment manufacturing, satellite manufacturing and rocket manufacturing, in that order.

Launch operations of expendable rockets are the least profitable part of space activities today. Since ESA has spent much more on developing the Ariane family of rockets than on applications satellites, the overall return on Europe's space investment is poor.

Since operation of the Ariane family of rockets is not profitable, and since companies from the USA and other countries have bought more Ariane launches than have European companies, Mr Bartholome said that Europe's investment in Ariane has mainly benefited businesses in the USA and other countries outside Europe.

To date Ariane 5 has cost European taxpayers some $10 billion, which will not be repaid by Arianespace, the company responsible for operating it. Over the same period European investment in applications satellites has been much less.

It is notable that Britain played only a very small part in the development of Ariane 5, after the Thatcher administration insisted that British government investment in space development should be aimed at fields with potential to earn commercial profits, namely telecommunications and remote sensing.

As government space budgets continue to be cut, and commercial space projects continue to grow, ESA may focus on more commercially promising projects than more expendable rockets.
Source: Space News, May 11

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Patrick Collins 19 May 1998
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