Hylas dumps Falcon

Chris Forrester

A British would-be satellite operator has switched its plan to launch using the controversial – and delayed - Falcon 9 rocket, and has instead chosen the tried and tested Ariane system.

Avanti’s Hylas (Highly Adaptable Satellite) satellite is targeting broadband-by-satellite customers and has already gained many professional and local authority customers ahead of the craft’s launch. Ariane says they have the option of launching aboard an Ariane 5 rocket or that of its partner Soyuz.

Launch is scheduled for early in 2010. The 2.7-tonne satellite will operate in the Ka-band and is targeting to deliver broadband services to some 350,000 subscribers.

Avanti’s switch from Falcon 9 will cost it money. While contract terms have not been revealed, it was widely known that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was priced at around $35m per launch. Ariane is much more costly, and has seen Avanti needing to raise more money which CEO David Williams says it has now done.

“It's turned out that our market was very much bigger than many of us thought and I now have a blue-chip shareholder base that is prepared to pay for the certainty and reliability of the world's best launch vehicle,” says Williams.