Open source: Deconstructing… Arianespace

There’s a striking amount of competitive intelligence to be found in a recent Wall Street Journal article about closely held Arianespace. ( “French Firm Vaults Ahead In Civilian Rocket Market,” 25 June 2007 )

“After decades of struggles, Arianespace managed to outmaneuver the incumbents with innovative engineering, cutthroat pricing and moves that parlayed the financial clout of the European Union to beat out U.S. rivals in launching private satellites.”

Here are some of the tidbits we learn from this article:

Market share: Doubled to “well over 50%.”

Technology: The Ariane 5 uses new dual-launch technology to simultaneously propel two spacecraft into orbit — an idea U.S. competitors scoffed at initially.

New market: Manned space flight. NASA’s administrator is considering Arianespace as “Plan B” if the agency stumbles in developing its own replacement for the aging space shuttles.

Secret sauce: Operates more like an airline, and outsources ancillary work.

Costs: Cut its supplier base by nearly 15% and forced those that remained to cut prices.

Motto: Deliver “any weight, to any orbit, at any time.”

Plans: Details about future plans for the Spaceport at the equator.

2 Replies to “Open source: Deconstructing… Arianespace”

  1. I haven’t had the opportunity to read the WSJ article as yet, but I’ve heard a good deal about it, and recently spoke with Andy Pasztor on a related subject. One thing that strikes me in the comments above is the reference to the dual launch capability as “new technology”. In fact, Arianespace has been using this technique as often as possible since introducing it to the commercial space launch world with the launch of Ariane 3 V10 in August 1984. I know this for two reasons: I was at that launch in Kourou, and I ran the U.S. office for Arianespace for 17 years, from 1984 until 2001. One of the driving factors in sizing the Ariane 5 was the growth of spacecraft mass that made it increasingly difficult to find two compatible spacecraft to launch in dual mode on Ariane 4. Arianespace has always prided itself on providing a superior level of customer service, and they seem to be continuing to do just that.

  2. You’re right, of course, that dual-launch capability isn’t new-new. I think the WSJ article just meant it was an unconventional approach at the time.

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