ArianeGroup, formerly Airbus Safran Launchers, is a joint venture of the European aerospace company Airbus and the French group Safran formed in 2015. It consists of three core businesses: aerospace (orbital propulsion systems and equipment), defence and security with the objective of development and subsequent production of Ariane 6.

Airbus Safran Launchers
Joint venture
FoundedJanuary 1, 2015; 5 years ago (2015-01-01)
FounderAirbus Defence and Space, Safran
Number of locations
13 main locations and facilities
Revenue€3.0 billion (2016)
Number of employees
9,000 (2016)
Footnotes / references

ArianeGroup's principal sites in 2016 were Issy-les-Moulineaux, Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, Kourou (space center), Vernon, Le Haillan and Les Mureaux in France as well as Lampoldshausen, Bremen and Ottobrunn in Germany.[4]


The formation of ArianeGroup is closely connected to both the development of the Ariane 6 heavy-lift launcher during the during the 2010s, as well as the space manufacturing aligned interests of two European aerospace companies, Airbus and Safran. During June 2014, Airbus and Safran approached the European Space Agency (ESA) with its own proposal for the Ariane 6 programme, the establishment of a 50/50 joint venture to develop the rocket, which would also involve buying out the French government's CNES interest in Arianespace.[5][6]

The company was established on 1 January 2015, with headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris.[7][non-primary source needed] At the time of formation, ArianeGroup's principal sites were Issy-les-Moulineaux, Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, Kourou (space center), Vernon, Le Haillan and Les Mureaux in France as well as Lampoldshausen, Bremen and Ottobrunn in Germany.[4][full citation needed][non-primary source needed] During 2016,[clarification needed] the company's CEO was Alain Charmeau and the Chairman of the Board was Marc Ventre.[8][non-primary source needed]

The reorganization of a major portion of Europe's space industry, which led to the creation of ArianeGroup, generated both close scrutiny and a level of controversy. French newspaper La Tribune published a scathing article, questioning whether Airbus could deliver on the promised costs for their Ariane 6 proposal, and whether Airbus and Safran Group could be trusted when they were found to be responsible for a failure of Ariane 5 flight 517 in 2002 and the failure of the M51 ballistic missile in 2013.[9] The companies were also criticized for being unwilling to incur development risks, and asking for higher initial funding than originally planned - €2.6 billion instead of €2.3 billion. Estimated launch prices of €85 million for Ariane 6.1 and €69 million for Ariane 6.2 did not compare favorably to SpaceX offerings.[10] A review was performed by the French government, focusing upon the company's tax affairs, while the European Commission conducted its own probe into a possible conflict of interest if Airbus, which is also active as a satellite manufacturer, was put into the position of purchasing launches upon launchers manufactured by itself.[11][needs update]

As of 2018, Alain Charmeau remained as chair of ArianeGroup, and the group was producing three existing rockets: the Ariane 5, Vega, and a European version of the Russian Soyuz, while pursuing development of the Ariane 6, and building a massive new launch pad facility at the Guiana Space Centre.[12]


Orbital launch vehiclesEdit

Ariane 62 (left) and Ariane 64 (right) in development by ArianeGroup

ArianeGroup's subsidiary, Arianespace, operates and markets commercial launch services for the Ariane rocket family, an expendable launch system which is used to deliver payloads into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) or low Earth orbit (LEO). According to Arianespace, at the time of its establishment in 1980, it was the world's first launch services company.[13] By early 1986, the Ariane 1, along with its Ariane 2 and Ariane 3 derivates, had become the dominant launcher on the global market.[14][15] 5ince then, the improved Ariane 4 and Ariane 5 launchers have been successfully introduced by Arianespace.[16]

In addition to the Ariane heavy-lift launcher, Arianespace also has a portfolio of smaller launch vehicles, including the Soyuz-2 as a medium-lift alternative, and the solid-fueled Vega for lighter payloads. Arianespace uses the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana as its main launch site[17]

While Arianespace handles the operation of the Ariane 5, its parent ArianeGroup is the primary contractor for the manufacture of this launcher. It has also been responsible for enhancements and further development of the platform; one project, known as the Ariane 5 ME (Mid-life Evolution) was underway until late 2014, at which point the ESA halted funding for development to instead prioritize work on the new generation Ariane 6 launcher.[18][19][20]

On 12 August 2015, the European Space Agency (ESA) appointed Airbus Safran Launchers as the principal contractor with the new development of the Ariane 6.[21] Amongst other factors, the ESA is reportedly keen to maximise the potential commonalities between the Ariane 6 and Vega launchers.[22] During January 2016, the basic design was finalized, advancing the work into the detailed design and production phases.[23][24] On 6 May 2019, Arianespace ordered the first production batch of 14 Ariane 6 launchers; these are intended for missions to be conducted between 2021 and 2023.[25]


ArianeGroup is the prime contractor for the M51, a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) operated by the French Navy, being responsible for development, manufacture, system support, and end-of-life disposal of the missiles, in addition to delivering both the land-based operating infrastructure and the submarine-based command and control systems.[26] During May 2016, Airbus and Safran announced an agreement for ArianeGroup to undertake modification work to upgrade the M51 to the M51.3 standard.[27]

During January 2019, it was announced that ArianeGroup was developing a hypersonic version of the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée air-launched cruise missile, known as ASN4G.[28] Forecast for delivery during 2021, its delivery shall make France the second European nation after Russia to develop its own hypersonic weapons.[29]

Orbital Propulsion SystemsEdit

The Orbital Propulsion Centre, a division of the ArianeGroup, is located in Lampoldshausen, Germany. The Lampoldshausen facility is the European centre of excellence for spacecraft propulsion.[30] The centre supplies complete propulsion systems, subsystems and component parts for satellites, orbital spacecraft, interplanetary spacecraft, re-entry vehicles, resupply missions to the International Space Station and currently the NASA / ESA Orion European Service Module. The majority of ESA satellites and spacecraft have reportedly incorporated thruster or other components that have been produced at Lampoldshausen.[31]

Rocket enginesEdit

See alsoEdit


The ArianeGroup Chalet at Paris Air Show 2017


  1. ^ "Company profile". ArianeGroup. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Security and Defence". ArianeGroup. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Our main facilities and locations". ArianeGroup. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 March 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ de Selding, Peter (20 June 2014). "Airbus and Safran Propose New Ariane 6 Design, Reorganization of Europe's Rocket Industry". Space News. Retrieved 6 June 2015. European space-hardware builders Airbus and Safran have proposed that the French and European space agencies scrap much of their previous 18 months' work on a next-generation Ariane 6 rocket in favor of a design that includes much more liquid propulsion.
  6. ^ Amos, Jonathan (5 July 2014). "Ariane 6: Customers call the shots". BBC News. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  7. ^ "Press Release. Airbus Group und Safran gründen Joint Venture". Airbus Group, 3 December 2014. Retrieved on 8 February 2016.
  8. ^ "Organisation.", Retrieved on 8 February 2016.
  9. ^ Cabirol, Michel (7 July 2014). "Faut-il donner toutes les clés d'Ariane 6 a Airbus et Safran?" (in French). La Tribune. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  10. ^ Cabirol, Michel (7 July 2014). "Privatisation d'Ariane 6 : comment Airbus et Safran négocient le "casse du siècle"" [Ariane 6 privatized: how Airbus and Safran negotiate the "heist of the century"]. La Tribune (in French). Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  11. ^ Amos, Jonathan (7 April 2016). "Ariane 6 project 'in good shape'". BBC News. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  12. ^ "As the SpaceX steamroller surges, European rocket industry vows to resist". 20 July 2018. Archived from the original on 20 July 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  13. ^ "Arianespace was founded in 1980 as the world's first launch services company". Archived from the original on 18 February 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  14. ^ Harvey 2003, p. 172.
  15. ^ "Ariane 1,2,3". Ariane 1. European Space Agency. 3 May 2004. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
  16. ^ Harvey 2003, p. 193.
  17. ^ "Service & Solutions". Archived from the original on 12 February 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2011.
  18. ^ "Adapted Ariane 5 ME". European Space Agency. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  19. ^ "ESA signs contract for Ariane 5 rocket enhancements". Archived from the original on 25 December 2009. Retrieved 22 December 2009.
  20. ^ Kyle, Ed (3 December 2014). "Ariane 6". Space Launch Report. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  21. ^ "Airbus Safran Launchers: a highly promising first year" (PDF) (PDF). 28 January 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 February 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  22. ^ Thisdell, Dan. "IN FOCUS: Europe's next rocket has high hurdles to clear". Flight International, 27 November 2012.
  23. ^ "Ariane 6 design finalized, set for 2020 launch". Space Daily. 28 January 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  24. ^ Amos, Jonathan (28 January 2016). "Europe settles on design for Ariane 6 rocket". BBC News. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  25. ^ Jeff Foust [@jeff_foust] (7 May 2019). "Stéphane Israël, Arianespace: ordered first production batch of 14 Ariane 6 rockets yesterday for missions in 2021-23. #SATShow" (Tweet). Retrieved 7 May 2019 – via Twitter.
  26. ^ "M51". ArianeGroup. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  27. ^ Tran, Pierre (10 May 2016). "Airbus and Safran Agree to Space Launcher Joint Venture". Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  28. ^ "Race for 'hypersonic' weapons heats up as France joins fray". The Straits Times. 29 January 2019.
  29. ^ Peck, Michael (4 February 2019). "Now France Wants Hypersonic Missiles by 2021". The National Interest.
  30. ^ "Orbital Propulsion Centre, Lampoldshausen, Germany".
  31. ^ "Spacecraft Propulsion Heritage".


  • Harvey, Brian. Europe's Space Programme: To Ariane and Beyond. Springer Science & Business Media, 2003. ISBN 1-8523-3722-2.