Demand for satellites will remain strong, except in China: Arianespace

Demand for satellites will remain strong, except in China: Arianespace

Satellite launcher sees rural demand for connectivity keeping satellites popular

For a European company, Arianespace is generating a lot of its business in Asia Pacific, particularly in Australia.

The renowned company is behind 64 per cent of satellite launches in Asia Pacific, compared to the 54 per cent it commands in Europe and 47 per cent in the Americas.

Arianespace, which so far has a 100 per cent success record, has been launching satellites in the Australian market since 1987 with the Aussat L3, and some of the more recent launches have been for telco, Optus.

For those reasons, Arianespace CEO, Jean-Yves Le Gall, says Australia forms an important part of the company’s Asia Pacific strategy.

“We’ve already launched many satellites for Optus, and Newsat has signed on to have its Jabiru1 launched into orbit in 2014,” he said.

While there was a lot of excitement in the 90’s about the possibilities presented by satellites, such as the proliferation of satellites leading everyone to have a satellite phone.

However, the growth of mobile phone towers meant that this potential market was killed off before it had a chance to hit off.

As for whether Le Gall is concerned about any recent technological development replacing existing satellites, he says is not seeing anything to be worried about.

“The satellites we launch today tend to complement land infrastructure,” he said.

Le Gall adds that if someone wants to install high speed Internet everywhere in Australia, the current options include optical fibre in cities but rural areas do not have this capability.

“You have to use satellite for connectivity, so I don’t see any other solutions to replace satellites for this application,” he said.

Going green

The growth in demand for satellites has meant that Arianespace and other companies are regularly sending up rockets, which has led some to voice concerns about space debris.

Le Gall says all of their rockets, including the Ariane 5 heavy-lift variant, are “green” and do not create debris.

“We try to de-arm it during the later stages in orbit to avoid keeping them in orbit,” he said.

“However, some of our competitors are not as conscious and leave more and more space debris, which is a cause for concern.”

Despite Arianespace’s growth in the Asia Pacific region, the results do not extend to China.

The reason for Arianespace’s absence in the potentially lucrative Chinese market is because the nation's regulation does not allow for satellites that have US components.

“At the end of the day, China is not an active market in commercial launches because most of the satellites have components sourced from the US,” Le Gall said.

For these reasons, Le Gall does not see this situation changing in the short to medium term.

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