Ariane rockets are a deadend so Europe should develop spaceplanes

Ariane only has 2 out of seven contracts guaranteed Ariane 6 rocket launches that are needed to give financial viability to initial rocket production.

Ariane is hoping for four “Galileo” GPS satellite launches, plus a probe from the Esa, plus one German and one French government mission. They need a clear signal that they can start producing the other rockets. They need a total of seven contracts for guaranteed launches at $100 million per launch. The five additional launches are for a total of $500 million.

SpaceX lower costs are killing Ariane. SpaceX charges $65 million for commercial launches and $100 million for military and NASA launches. SpaceX is lowering costs further with the more reusable Block 5 rocket and will follow that with an even more low-cost SpaceX BFR.

They need a total of five launches in 2021 and eight in 2022. This would mean a total requirement of $1.1 billion worth of launches not counting the $200 million they already have.

The production of the first rocket is already running. The second launch of the “Ariane 6” should already take place in late 2020 or early 2021, depending on customer requirements.

Ariane 6

Without contracts, Ariane would have to stop production.

The $1.1 billion of additional government support for Ariane is a dead end. This is just to fund Ariane 6 for a rocket with $100 million launch capability. Neither Ariane 6 or its proposed Prometheus reusable engine would be competitive with SpaceX.

China is accepting the cost to continue to develop rockets to eventually compete with SpaceX but it is likely a twenty-year commitment of $10-20 billion. China will develop some reusability for the Long March 8 rocket in about ten years.

Europe’s Ariane would likely need $10-20 billion per decade until they could develop fully reusable rocket technology to catch up to where SpaceX will be.

Ariane likely needs to be completely restructured for an effective cost structure for more efficient reusable rocket development and operation.

Europe would be better off creating and funding a new focused renewable rocket effort.

Reaction Engines UK could develop a reusable spaceplane. This might or might not be competitive with SpaceX in all markets but it would be usable for hypersonic military and hypersonic commercial flight. It would have sales for military spyplanes and fighter planes to spread the overhead of the orbital launch development and operations.