SpaceX accuses Arianespace of unfair competition


In a less tense geopolitical and commercial context between the United States and Europe, the situation would be comical. SpaceX, the rocket maker that revolutionized the space industry with its salvable rockets, complains to Washington about Arianespace's unfair competition! "The government subsidies of the EU and French artificially reduce the price of Arianespace's launch services on the international market and allow their rockets to be unjustly competitive", he advised SpaceX's corporate leadership in a letter to Edward Gresser, a senior Commerce Department official in December, who was given a copy by the "Echos".

Subsidies against the Buy American Act

While Europeans are worried about the lack of competitiveness of the future Ariane 6 rocket against SpaceX, as evidenced by the latest report by the Court of Auditors, the company founded by Elon Musk denounces the aid paid by the European Space Agency (ESA) ). In his letter, the California company is 13.2 billion euros between 1998 and 2012. It also calls into question public funding for the spaceport of Kourou in French Guiana, stating that this allows Arianespace not to including its commercial offers the weight of the infrastructure.

The company, which is causing prices to fall in space, therefore asks the US legislator to correct this unfair competition in the context of trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States. "There should be an agreement to ensure that Arianespace does not receive preferential treatment and that members of the Union do not discriminate against non-European suppliers", SpaceX asks.

100 hits and 12 billion contracts

Funny when we know that Arianespace struggled for months in vain for the promise of Europeans to launch their satellites on Ariane 6. The head of CNES, Jean-Yves Le Gall, says that this letter falls "Background noise" of the commercial battle of space. "In terms of the launcher, remember that there is a Buy American Act, which prohibits any US operator from using a foreign rocket, since a satellite has 51% of its value in the United States", remember.

And to emphasize that in terms of public funding, those dedicated to Europe to its space of conquest are very modest compared to American or Chinese spending. The search for strategic autonomy justifies public investment in space and a perfectly free competition in the launcher sector is not on the agenda, recalls André-Hubert Roussel, CEO of ArianeGroup.

Moreover, in its mail, SpaceX is well positioned as a world leader in space with over 60 launches already made on behalf of state and commercial customers and about forty hits on order, all representing "More than $ 12 billion in contracts".

An interesting figure for a company that does not communicate much. This would equate to an average price of $ 120 million per launch, far from the average price of $ 60 million that SpaceX reports in its commercial brochures.

Anne Bauer


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