Europe’s manufacturer of space rockets, the German-French Ariane Group, pulls the ripcord. Against the background of intensified competition with US competitors and lack of start-up guarantees for European state customers, the company is now losing jobs.
By 2022, about 2300 of the currently about 9000 jobs are to be canceled, the company announced on WELT-request. A hiring freeze will take effect immediately until the conference of the Council of Ministers of the European Space Agency (ESA) in November 2019.
Three years ago, when rocket manufacturer Ariane Group was formed by Airbus and French engine manufacturer Safran as a 50/50 joint venture, the spirit of optimism started with a giant project. The company develops and builds the new launcher Ariane 6 for over four billion euros in tax money and 400 million euros in own contribution.
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It is expected to take off for the first time in June 2020 and be 40 to 50 percent cheaper than the current Ariane 5 rocket. With the phasing out of the Ariane 6 redevelopment jobs will probably no longer be needed, which will then be deleted accordingly. Also of „unfavorable market conditions“ was the speech.
Now announced by the Ariane Group cuts are a kind of warning shot of the industry to the space agencies. The joint venture demands 30 launches within six years from state-owned European clients, otherwise the Ariane 6 project would not be profitable in their view. So far, however, there are only three start commitments.
Airbus CEO Thomas Enders had already demanded a radical change in the summer. The European space eco-system was characterized by fragmentation, political influence and cumbersome decision-making. „Europe threatens to be hanged,“ warned Enders.
To bring about a change, the Member States, the ESA space agency, the European Commission and industry would have to go up a gear. „We need more cooperation across borders, more speed, more courage,“ said Enders.
The Ariane Group argues for a kind of protectionism, pointing out that all major space agencies, such as the US, China, and Russia, launch their science or military missions only on the missiles they finance and shield their markets from competition.
That is how Europe should behave. The French Ariane Group boss Alain Charmeau had even bluntly threatened in the spring with an Ariane 6 production stop, if not enough start orders are promised.
The Ariane Group not only produces the Ariane rocket. The joint venture is also responsible for the development, construction and maintenance of the M51 three-stage nuclear missile, fired by French nuclear submarines.
This is one of the main tasks for Europe’s Ariane rocket so far. However, only five geostationary satellites were commissioned in the market this year; in previous years it was 20 to 25