Main Engine Cut Off

Ariane 6 Slips to 2022, Needs Another €230 Million

Big slip for Ariane 6, and 5% growth of development cost—bringing the total development cost to €3.8 billion. Disappointing yet unsurprising news.

This news has dredged up another round of Ariane 6 takes that misunderstand the program entirely, though. As Arianespace competes for commercial launches with SpaceX, there’s always a Ariane 6 vs. Falcon 9 war to be fought.1

In this case, it’s that Ariane 6 is so expensive and can never compete in the long run with Falcon 9. That is certainly true on the surface, but Arianespace is not a commercial company like SpaceX.

Europe has a political and security interest in maintaining a homegrown launch capability. They aren’t developing Ariane 6 specifically to sell commercial launches. Selling commercial launches is a way to subsidize maintaining a homegrown launch capability.

SpaceX developed Falcon 9 with the goal of making launch more affordable across the board. The US government has a political and security interest in making sure they and other launch providers stick around.

The relationship between national and commercial interests are completely reversed for each program, and that is important to understand if you want to come to peace with Ariane 6’s gargantuan development cost.

Ariane 6 is much more akin, politically, to SLS than Falcon 9. What a world it would be if SLS could compete for commercial launches.

  1. Just as there is always a SpaceX vs. {insert topic here} war to be fought. ↩︎