The push by certain telecommunications operators for additional players in the space lift marketplace could work to the satellite industry’s own detriment, generating an overcapacity situation and potentially creating launch services quality issues.
This was the conclusion of several participants in a panel discussion on the launch sector’s future, which was organized as part of the Satellite 2010 conference of telecommunications executives, managers and service providers.
Taking part in the panel were Arianespace Chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall; Kjell Karlsen, the President and General Manager of Sea Launch; Yin Liming, President of China Great Wall Industry Corporation; and International Launch Services President Francis McKenna.
Le Gall said the four launch services providers represented on this Satellite 2010 panel already offer more than enough capacity for all of the commercial telecommunications satellites that are competitively bid for launch opportunities in a typical year.
“When we count up the numbers – which was the case once again in 2009 – it is obvious that an overcapacity situation already exists in the launch services market,” Le Gall explained. “When I hear certain operators say the contrary, what they really want is additional cheap launch services on the market – but this is something they won’t admit out loud.”
He noted that while the major telecommunications satellite providers seek bargain prices for launches, these companies are themselves financially strong – with many earning double-digit profits as the demand for their relay services continues to grow.
“The system of commercial launch service providers is working very well, offering capacity to cover all of the market needs for prices that are globally affordable – so if the telecommunications operators want to destabilize this system, I think they will face the consequences from the resulting damage,” Le Gall said.
According to Le Gall, Arianespace’s launcher family concept will enable the company to maintain its leadership, allowing it to respond to market developments that include the continued trend toward two primary satellite segments: one for medium-class telecommunications spacecraft with liftoff masses of approximately 2.5-3.2 metric tons, and the other for large-class spacecraft that generally weigh from 5.2 to 6.2 metric tons.
The Ariane 5 ECA’s heavy-lift capability of nearly 10 metric tons enables Arianespace to orbit the world’s biggest telecommunications satellites as solo payloads, as well as team up large-class satellites with medium-class spacecraft on dual-payload missions, providing a significant number of launch slots annually and giving the company excellent scheduling flexibility.
Its upcoming introduction of Soyuz at French Guiana will open up additional capacity for medium-class payloads, enabling Arianespace the ability to launch satellites as they become available.
“With Ariane 5 and Soyuz operating in tandem from French Guiana, Arianespace can perfectly meet the market needs, which is one of the reasons why we are so successful,” Le Gall added. “In addition, our focus remains on quality, which is another factor that should define the launch services marketplace.”
The four-day Satellite 2010 conference is one of the telecommunications industry’s major gatherings, and this yearly event includes a high-level level presence of Arianespace.
In addition to Le Gall’s participation on the conference’s launch services panel, the company has an information stand in the Satellite 2010 exhibit (Booth 1019) and it sponsors the traditional reception for Via Satellite magazine’s Satellite Executive of the Year. For 2010, the conference and exhibition is being held at National Harbor, Maryland near Washington, D.C.