Today there was a news report in which Stéphane Israël, the head of Arianespace, kind of admitted at last that the expendable design of Europe’s new Ariane-6 rocket was a mistake, and that it will take a decade more to fix it.
“When the decisions were made on Ariane 6, we did so with the technologies that were available to quickly introduce a new rocket,” said Israël, according to European Spaceflight.
He added that it will not be until the 2030s before Europe begins flying its own reuseable rocket.
Israël’s comments illustrate the head-in-the-sand approach he has exhibited now for decades. He claims the European Space Agency (ESA) chose to make Ariane-6 expandable so that it would be ready quickly, but its development has not been fast, and in fact is now more than three years behind schedule. When it finally begins flying operational it will have taken almost a decade to create it.
His comments also are his lame attempt to push back against a recent ESA report [pdf], issued in late March, that strongly rejected the decades-long model that ESA has used to build its rockets. Up until now and including the construction of Ariane-6, ESA designed and built its rockets, using Arianespace, headed by Israël, as its commercial arm. In other words, the government ran the show, much like NASA did for most of the half century following the 1960s space race. The result was slow development, and expensive rockets. Arianespace for example never made a profit in its decades-long existence, despite capturing half the commercial market in the 2000s and early 2010s.
The March ESA report rejected this model, and instead advocating copying what the U.S. has done for the past half decade by shifting ownership and design to the private sector, as advocated in my 2017 policy paper, Capitalism in space. To quote the ESA report:…
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