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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 15:20 GMT
Arianespace emboldened for 2004
Ariane 5-ECA
The super-rocket was destroyed four minutes into its maiden flight
Europe's French-based rocket consortium Arianespace broke even in 2003 after recording three years of losses.

Chief executive Jean-Yves Le Gall said the company was back on track after some lean times and the failure on its maiden flight of a new super-rocket.

The faulty design that saw the 10-tonne Ariane 5-ECA blow up on launch has now been fixed and the vehicle will be sent on a test flight some time in mid-2004.

It will put into orbit a dummy payload and a military satellite for Spain.

The December 2002 failure of the super-rocket, the most powerful vehicle ever flown by Europe, also scuppered attempts to send an ambitious science mission to a comet.

The mission was grounded whilst a review board examined the causes of the rocket failure and management systems at Arianespace.

But Le Gall was able to announce on Tuesday that the Rosetta flight could now proceed on 26 February, just over a year late.

Rosetta is scheduled to rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churymov-Gerasimenko in August 2014, putting a small lander on its icy surface.

Le Gall told the news conference the consortium had carried out six rocket launches in 2003, sending a total of 10 satellites into space.

Major overhaul

The flights brought in revenues of 550 million euros (385m), which was down sharply on the 1.46 billion euros (1bn) in sales the consortium registered in 2002, when Arianespace orbited 16 satellites on 12 flights.

Le Gall said a reduction in operating costs and more favourable launch terms had allowed Arianespace to break even despite slack market conditions.

Arianespace operates Europe's rockets under a charter of the European Space Agency. It is owned by a grouping of European governments, aerospace firms, banks and the French space agency CNES.

In May last year, space ministers agreed a billion-euro (700m) package of public and private support money to prop up and overhaul the continent's satellite-launching sector.

This involved refocusing the role of Arianespace more on the marketing side of the launch business. Sole responsibility for future development and manufacturing of rockets was handed over to the European Aeronautic Defence & Space Company (EADS).

Le Gall said Arianespace would proceed with four to six launches in 2004.

Separately, he also confirmed that shareholders were scheduled to recapitalise Arianespace in the second half of 2004, bringing its equity to around 150 million euros (105m).

The recapitalisation is expected to occur shortly before a restructuring of Arianespace's shareholder structure, which would see the French space agency CNES exit and EADS boost its stake to just over 50%.

CNES currently holds about a third of Arianespace's capital and EADS roughly one quarter.

Europe gears up for comet chaser
24 Oct 03  |  Science/Nature
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20 May 03  |  Science/Nature
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10 Apr 03  |  Science/Nature
Engine glitch brought down rocket
07 Jan 03  |  Science/Nature

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