The funding is good for 10 years and the cash is designed to help Europe maintain its strong place in supplying launch facilities to commercial, government and scientific missions. Repayment is tied into the anticipated commercial success of Arianespace’s ‘next-generation’ Ariane 6 rocket.
Key to the project and its long-term plans for a ‘reusable rocket’ are cost-reduction projects such as 3D printing of components and more efficient production and management. Arianespace is also intending to increase its launch rate to 12 per year and thereby improve commercial revenues.
Arianespace is a subsidiary of a joint-venture between Airbus and France’s Safran.
CEO of the ArianeGroup, André Hubert Roussel, explained that the loan would be used to cover his company’s share of development costs.
However, the route ahead is far from clear. Arianespace’s main rival is Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the impressive success of the Falcon family of rockets means that SpaceX is a very competitive option for its clients. Moreover, SpaceX’s further success with its Starship spacecraft could ensure regular business from NASA and even space tourism.
OneWeb isn’t alone and the NCC has granted similar access licenses to Inmarsat, Eutelsat, SES, Intelsat, Avanti’s Hylas-2, and the UAE’s Yahsat.
To date the NCC has not included SpaceX’s Starlink mega-constellation for access to the country although the NCC updates its list of approved operators twice a year. This suggests Starlink might make the next update.
Nigeria is the continent’s most populous nation as well as being Africa’s fastest-growing country.