Safran, Airbus Group create space launch joint venture

The 50/50 joint venture, expected to be operational by the end of 2014, will focus on development of a new family of competitive space launchers to serve commercial and institutional needs.

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Airbus Group (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and Safran (Paris, France) announced on June 16 that they are further strengthening their relationship to propose a new family of competitive, versatile and efficient space launchers, to serve commercial and institutional needs.

In this context, both companies have agreed to create a 50­/50 joint venture, with a key role for each shareholder in their legacy activities especially in France and Germany, combining expertise in the launcher systems from Airbus Group as well as propulsion systems from Safran.

The initiative capitalizes on the preparatory activities undertaken during the last two years under the leadership of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French Space Agency CNES, in line with the guidelines set by the ESA ministerial conference in November 2012. The current industrial initiative proposes:

  • To further develop and accelerate entry­ into ­service of the Ariane 5 ME launcher as a logical evolution of Ariane 5, including an improved upper stage based on the Vinci engine;
  • To further develop the Ariane 6 launcher in a jointly agreed configuration, able to fulfil a range of missions as expressed by ESA, the National Space Agencies, Arianespace and satellite operators.

Airbus Group and Safran have been close and complementary partners in the launcher business, with an unmatched row of successful Ariane launches for more than 10 years. With this new partnership, for which a memorandum of understanding was signed, both companies strive to capitalize on the successful track record of Arianespace and the Ariane family by further increasing efficiency and competitiveness.

Both companies express their determination to continue to play a leading role in the space launcher business as well as to safeguard Europe’s autonomous and reliable access to space. This year, ESA and its member nations are expected to take far-­reaching decisions on current and next-generation launchers.

"It’s all about enhancing the competitiveness of our space launcher business going forward. The Ariane program has been hugely successful during the last 30 years, but in order to remain relevant and competitive for the future we need a much more efficient industrial structure. This is what the customers expect from us. Our agreement with Safran is the starting point of an exciting journey towards a more integrated, more efficient and hence more profitable launcher business in Europe,” says Tom Enders, chief executive officer of Airbus Group.

“Among an increased number of actors worldwide and in addition to high technological challenges, European industry must provide competitive solutions for all space segments, among which launchers remain at the forefront. Today, we are at a defining moment to drive change as we have to be more agile, our products more affordable, and our structures more integrated. This new joint entity will be a major worldwide player in the launcher domain, with the aim to benefit from growth and better serve institutional as well as commercial customers,” says Jean-­Paul Herteman, chairman and CEO of Safran.

In the first phase, Airbus Group and Safran will create a joint program company in order to contribute their respective civil program contracts and major participations related to civil launcher activities. Subsequently, industrial assets will be contributed over time in order to create a world-class, fully ­fledged jointly owned competitive company.

Airbus Group and Safran will submit the creation of the joint venture to all respective approvals required. Signing of the first phase of the transaction and an initial start of operations of the joint venture are expected before the end of 2014. 

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