In spite of being up against fierce competition from the likes of SpaceX, which is launching rockets with relentless frequency, Arianespace has again slipped the launch readiness date for their new Ariane 6 rocket, according to journalist Chris Forrester in a posting at the Advanced Television infosite.
Originally promised for a mid-2020 debut test flight, that date has reportedly slipped to late next year.
Ariane 6 is a much-needed replacement for today’s Ariane 5 vehicles. According to Space Intel Report, there are just nine Ariane 5’s left in the manifest and some of these are pre-booked for launching between July and the end of 2022 and handling scientific missions as well as commercial cargoes.
Ariane 6 is designed to be used in a number of variants, not the least of which is the Ariane-64 vehicle that is designed to handle two, fairly heavy, commercial satellites into geostationary orbit on the same rocket.
Part of the problem is clearly attributable to the coronavirus, which closed factories or severely limited production workflows. Space Intel Report says that the impact of Covid-19 will be around 6 months — that means that there would be a follow-on delay after the first flight of another 6 months which would put the second flight into 2022, also suggesting that Flight 3 would follow after another 3 months; however, the all-important A-64 variant would be Flight 4 of the new schedule, and currently that’s well down the line.
Arianespace does have some spare capacity by using a “Europeanized” version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket, which is fine for some tasks. But, as well as SpaceX, there is also fresh competition coming from lower-cost reusable rockets from Jeff Bezos and his suite of Blue Origin rockets that are likely to be tested in 2021.
India, Japan, China and Russia are also busy building suitable rockets to rival Ariane.
Chris is also reporting that Cairo-based satellite operator Nilesat suffered further falls in profit for the firm’s first-quarter trading.
Net profits were down by 5 percent at $10.8 million ($11.38 million a year ago).Nilesat’s revenues declined to $32.36 million in the January-March period, compared to $32.86 million in the same period in 2019, according to a stock market disclosure on June 8th.
During the full 2019 year Nilesat’s net profit was $42.53 million (down from $53.46 million in 2018).
Also at the Advanced Television infosite is information that, last month, it was reported how the organization that supervises Intelsat’s public service obligations, the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation (ITSO), had complained to Intelsat’s bankruptcy court that Intelsat had not been paying its dues to ITSO.
ITSU had asked the court to authorize a special payment to fund its costs and services.
Intelsat responded ahead of the June 9th court hearing on the matter and firmly rejects the ITSO claim saying that ITSO’s budget has been padded with unnecessary costs and questionable expenses.
In a 56-page filing to the court, Intelsat stated, “Respectfully, ITSO’s demand do not make sense” [and] “the claim is without merit and should be denied.”
Intelsat admits that ITSO exists to perform certain narrowly prescribed supervisory functions. The two elements had previously agreed funding levels from 2001 and by the end of 2019 ITSO had accumulated more than $800,000 in reserves out of a $1.8 million annual funding cap. ITSO had also during this period sponsored educational forums, attending the World Economic Forum and provided online courses to ITSO staff. These were unrelated to its core obligation.
“Remarkably,” said Intelsat, ITSO’s proposed budget nevertheless includes items such as:
- — $1,000,000 in salaries and benefits for unnecessary staff, including an in-house legal advisor and technical director
- — $200,000 for additional outside consultants, including duplicative legal and technical advisors
- — $24,720 for “automobile”
- — $36,000 for “legal services”
- — $10,000 for “studies”
- — $56,000 for “specialist advice and consultancy services in relation to financials and policies”
- — $100,000 for bonuses
- — $500 for “charitable contributions”
- — $144,000 for “airfare”