Airbus Embarks on New Satellite Launch Venture With European Aero-Engine Maker

Airbus Group and French aerospace engineering and aero-defense equipment supplier Safran have a created a joint venture focused on building a new, less expensive model of Ariane, a European satellite launcher. This collaboration comes at a time when there is fierce international competition for space launches.

Interest in space exploration, as well as satellite systems, continues to increase internationally. In fact, in the United States alone, the satellite telecommunications industry is estimated to have grown 3.4% annually between 2008 and 2013.

The joint effort between Airbus and Safran will be called Airbus Safran Launchers, with construction of the Ariane 6 rocket scheduled to begin in January 1, 2015, the companies said last week.

In June, Airbus and Safran agreed to create a 50-50 joint venture, ensuring each shareholder a key role in their legacy activities, particularly in France and Germany. The collaborative effort will combine Airbus’s expertise in launcher systems with Safran’s expertise in propulsion systems. The goal of the project is to maintain the high level of reliability and quality of the Ariane 5, while continuing to improve and create innovative space launchers. The joint venture’s headquarters will be located just outside of Paris, in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.

Last week, the companies stated that the joint venture will utilize an initial workforce of nearly 450 workers, expecting the deal to close at the end of December after finalizing formalities.

The European Space Agency (ESA) approved the joint initiative last week at the Ministerial Conference for the development and product of the new Ariane 6 space launcher.

“If we want to successfully counter growing international competition and prevent the risk of Europe’s space sector from being marginalized, a lot more has to be done. Therefore, we hope that this ESA Ministerial Conference serves as a catalyst to transform the way institutional space agencies operate and interface with industry in the future,” Tom Enders, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Group, said.

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