Ariane slams Eutelsat

Written by Chris Forrester

The normally ultra-polite world of satellite CEOs was blown apart at a Washington DC conference Wednesday, when Jean-Yves Le Gall, CEO at Paris-based Arianespace, expressed outrage and “shock” at Eutelsat’s decision to permit a Chinese satellite launcher to place a communications satellite into orbit.

Eutelsat is buying its W3C satellite from Thales Alenia Space on a “build and launch” contract. Normally Eutelsat chooses either Arianespace or Russia’s Proton as its launch vehicle.

Le Gall told AFP that Eutelsat’s choice of a Chinese launcher "leaves us extremely perplexed." He added that Eutelsat’s decision could be seen as being “hostile” to the United States. This comment refers to Eutelsat having to order an “ITAR free” satellite for China. The USA’s tough ITAR regulations forbid any American components being used within a satellite that’s to be launched on China’s Long March rocket vehicle. The 1998 International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) rules, prohibits export and import of defence-related articles and services to certain countries including China.

Giuliano Berretta, Eutelsat’s CEO, has made it clear that he would back another Chinese launch if prices were favourable and delivery dates were suitable. Berretta has earlier said that he was aware of French government pressure to cancel the launch contract and to favour Ariane. Berretta, speaking on March 25, said he’d happily choose America’s Atlas and Delta rocket launchers provided the price and availability suited.

Other senior industry figures, including Mr Berretta, as well as Intelsat’s Dave McGlade, SES’ Romain Bausch and Telesat’s Dan Goldberg, all speaking in Washington, urged the US government to relax its ITAR rules.