Aviation Week is reporting that European launch company Arianespace is preparing to ask the European Union for increased subsidies in the face of competition from SpaceX and difficulties with exchange rates.
“Given the weakness of the dollar and the situation with SpaceX, it is not out of the question that our effort to raise our competitiveness must be accompanied by increased government support for the exploitation of Ariane 5,”
–Stephane Israel, Arianespace Chairman and CEO
The full story is here:
Compared to the blanket subsidy which domestic competitor United Launch Alliance (ULA) receives whether it launches anything or not, averaging nearly $1 billion per year since the Falcon 9 first took flight, the European subsidy is much smaller, and is used to offset any annual operating losses by Arianespace, which currently offers the Ariane V, Commercial Soyuz and Vega launch vehicles from French Guiana.
One point worth considering, SpaceX is fighting more than just the force of gravity and the rocket equation. It is also battling a heavily subsidized competitor in the U.S., a quasi-governmental competitor in Arianespace, while competing directly against the governments of Russia and China. Based on the results however, it would seem that subsidies no matter who provides them, are poor a match for technology and a sound business plan.