Asian Scientist Magazine Talks To Arianespace CEO, Mr Jean-Yves Le Gall
By Juliana Chan | Editorials
July 24, 2012
We recently talked to Mr Jean-Yves Le Gall, CEO of Arianespace at the annual CommunicAsia 2012 conference at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands.
AsianScientist (Jul. 24, 2012) – We recently talked to Mr Jean-Yves Le Gall, CEO of Arianespace at the annual CommunicAsia 2012 conference at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands.
One of Asia’s largest communications and IT conferences – CommunicAsia 2012 featured emerging technologies from mobile broadband, smartphones, satellite communications, and other sectors.
With the docking of the Chinese Shenzhou-9 rocket and Tiangong-1 space module fresh on everyone’s mind, we asked Mr. Le Gall for his thoughts on the Chinese space agency, the China National Space Administration.
Mr. Le Gall called it an “impressive” feat, and noted especially that China had chosen to send a woman astronaut up into space.
“Oh, it’s impressive, even if it’s not directly related to our business, but having the capability to launch people into space, to launch a woman into space, paves the way for other successes in China,” he said.
Another feat is Arianespace’s own maiden launch of Vega on February 13 this year. Carrying nine light-weight satellites on its maiden flight, the light-weight Vega completes Arianespace’s trinity of rockets at French Guiana with its existing heavy-lifter Ariane 5 and medium-lifter Soyuz.
Earlier this year at the Global Space & Technology Convention (GSTC) 2012, Asian Scientist Magazine featured Mr. Richard Bowles, ASEAN director of Arianespace on the day of Vega’s first launch.
Beyond the successful demonstration launch of the Vega rocket, has Arianespace identified clients for the light-weight launcher?
“For Vega, we are looking for government agencies which will launch scientific or observation satellites, and countries that want to invest on the basis of public-private partnership,” Mr. Le Gall said.
Projecting into the future, we asked Mr. Le Gall what level of flight activity Arianespace is heading towards in the next few years.
He said that the third Ariane 5 mission this year was an important one, because it launched two satellites at once – the EchoStar XVII and MSG-3 – into geostationary transfer orbit. More launches are also expected in the upcoming year, he said, leveraging on its family of rocket launchers.
“We are going to continue with an average launch rate of six to seven missions per year. And so you see with the three types of launch vehicles, we can launch all satellites of our customers,” he said.
So far, the 5ECA and the Ariane ES have been the ‘work horses’ of the company, responsible for some high profile launches including the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) for servicing of the International Space Station. Is Arianespace going to develop a new version of the Ariane 5?
No, Mr. Le Gall replied, adding that Arianespace will continue to make use of these two Ariane 5′s in the upcoming years.
“The ECA launches satellites into geostationary orbit, while the Ariane ES launches satellites into low-Earth orbit. Ariane ES launches include the ATV and Galileo,” he said.
Mr. Le Gall was referring to the Galileo navigation system, the European equivalent of the U.S. GPS global positional system and Russian GLONASS system. Once established, it will have 30 satellites in medium earth orbit and will provide real-time positioning, navigation, and timing services for both government and commercial use.
Arianespace in Asia
Moving the conversation back to Asia, we asked Mr. Le Gall what market share Arianespace is aiming for in the increasingly competitive Asian arena.
Citing a market share of 65 percent of Asian satellite launches, Mr. Le Gall noted a twenty-year relationship with countries such as Japan.
“Asia is very valuable to us which is why we have a local office in Singapore, and we want to continue to be a large presence in this market,” he added.
Arianespace recently launched in May 2012 a satellite for Vietnam, called Vinasat-2. Vinasat-2, weighing 2,969 kg and costing US$260-280 million, was flown into orbit by Arianespace’s Ariane 5 ECA rocket which is the most powerful version of the Ariane 5 launchers. The lift off was from the European spaceport in French Guyana, Kourou. Its precursor, Vinasat-1, was also launched by Arianespace in 2008.
So who did Mr. Le Gall consider Arianespace’s major competitors were in Asia? According to Mr. Le Gall, the company to watch is the U.S.-Russian International Launch Services (ILS), as its Proton launchers are favored by U.S. companies.
It may be recalled that a U.S. start-up company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) signed a deal in February with an Asian satellite operator, Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Limited (AsiaSat), to launch two AsiaSat communications satellites using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in 2014. Was SpaceX even on Arianespace’s radar?
“SpaceX, they do a lot of experimental flights, which are quite impressive. But we have already launched more than 301 satellites. They have not launched a single satellite,” he said.
Fair enough, we say, SpaceX certainly has a long way to go before it can rattle the much larger French company.
Wrapping up the interview, we asked Mr. Le Gall about Arianespace’s plans for India, as the company had previously placed into orbit 13 communication satellites for the South Asian country. Were there anymore launches planned, and what was the timeline for the upcoming GSat-10 launch?
“Yes, this year we are going to launch a satellite which is called the GSat. India is one of the mature partners of Arianespace and so I hope that in the future we will continue this partnership. We will launch Gsat-10 in the second half of the year,” Mr. Le Gall said.
Arianespace’s next Ariane 5 mission is scheduled for August 2, carrying the Intelsat 20 satellite for Intelsat, along with HYLAS 2 for Avanti Communications.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
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