[Satellite TODAY Insider 04-16-12] Arianespace’s 2011 full-year revenues exceeded analysts’ expectations and climbed 12.9 percent higher than its 2010 results to reach 1.01 billion euros ($1.3 billion). According to a statement issued April 12 at a meeting of Arianespace shareholders, the French launch company made a net profit of 1.6 million euros ($2.09 million) in 2011, driven by $190 million in European Space Agency (ESA) support payments that were made to the company last year.
The results even beat Arianespace CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall’s predictions in January that the company would generate a profit on revenue of about 985 million euros ($1.29 billion) by the end of 2011. Arianespace’s backlog stood at 4.7 billion euros ($6.16 billion) as of mid-April, which includes upcoming Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega launches.
Arianespace launched its heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket five times in 2011. The unusually low launch rate of its workhorse vehicle was impacted by various technical delays with its launch system and by the late arrival of its contracted satellites. Ariane 5 is tentatively scheduled to conduct seven launches in 2012, including its first launch completed in March.
The company conducted the two first launches of the Europeanized version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket in October and December of 2011 from the Guiana Space Center spaceport in Korou. Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate also managed two Soyuz launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The French space agency, CNES, owns a 35 percent stake in Arianespace, with the rest of its shareholders made up of industrial contractors for the heavy-lift Ariane 5 vehicle. Arianespace’s Vega small-satellite launcher successfully completed its debut flight in February 2012. Le Gall said the expanded launch vehicle portfolio would allow Arianespace to spread out some of the operating costs.
“The reason for this is because we can only sustain about three or four Soyuz launches out of French Guiana per year,” said Le Gall. “We have seen an extraordinary success with Soyuz launches, so we need to schedule the overflow for Baikonur … The success of the inaugural firing of Vega should unlock contracts that we have on hold and I am confident that we will sign several contracts in 2012. There were a number of cases that were on standby, which will materialize now that we have the first successful launch.”
In November 2012, ESA governments will convene in Italy to plan a European space strategy for the next three to five years. Arianespace said the ESA nations would debate whether or not to continue its support payments to Arianespace at the same rates previously agreed upon for 2011 and 2012 level.