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October 14th, 2018

Forrester Reports: Arianespace Might Place Soyuz Rockets on Hold + Customer Demand for Mega-Constellations Discussed @ Satellite Innovation

Chris Forrester.

A new posting by journalist Chris Forrester at Advanced TV reports that rocket launch company Arianespace informs readers that the company's planned use of a number of Soyuz rockets could be on hold, pending more information on what precisely went wrong on October 11 when two astronauts had to abandon a planned mission to the International Space Station.

Arianespace said in a statement: “Along with our Russian partners, as soon as the relevant data is available, we will study the possible impact of this anomaly on Arianespace’s planned launches with Soyuz. At this point, it is still too early to draw any conclusions. In the meantime, the launch campaign for next Soyuz in November is continuing.”

Arianespace uses a different version (Soyuz ST) of the Soyuz rocket that suffered an anomaly on October 11 (Soyuz FG).

Four major Arianespace launches are planned for this winter using Soyuz rockets (OneWeb’s debut launch of its first batch of 10 satellites, reportedly scheduled for February 2109) as well as launches for SES (4 satellites for O3b) and a couple of scientific missions for Italy and the European Space Agency.

Chris is also reporting at Advanced TV that delegates to the Satellite Innovation conference in Mountain View, California, heard speakers agree that there was probably enough customer demand for two and perhaps three of the proposed satellite mega-constellations to be built. However, and strongly stressed by panelists, were the challenges raised by financing demands.

Nick Flitterman, co-founder of London-based Portland Advisors, for example, argued that while some cash would be forthcoming from Private Equity funds, there would be a shortfall that will have to be made up by debt funding. Proposed constellations with confirmed orders and contracts in place for capacity would clearly find it easier to raise cash.

Portland’s past client base included O3b, Azercosmos, Spacecom/Amos and Skybox Imaging. Portland won the ‘European Telecom’s Deal of the Year’ for its work on O3b’s financing.

Flitterman admitted there was a race to get to market and, as yet, it was unclear as to what sort of capacity discounts might be offered to potential clients to win those contracts.