The European Ariane-5 rocket blasts off from French Guiana and launches a satellite to provide high-speed internet access to remote parts of Canada, late July 17, 2004. Scheduled for launch July 12, 2004, the mission was called off three times when technical and weather problems halted countdown. Picture taken July 17, 2004. REUTERS/CNES-ESA-ARIANESPACE-POOL Photo: POOL
Arianespace, the French company launching the national broadband network's satellites into orbit, is cutting jobs and costs to compete against SpaceX – the start-up space company founded by technology billionaire Elon Musk.
Arianespace ASEAN managing director Richard Bowles said Arianespace remained confident it could maintain its 50 per cent share of the space launch market despite SpaceX's slashing prices by building reliable rockets that are smaller and cheaper.
But Mr Bowles also said the company had to undergo substantial restructuring to keep up with the competition and reduce the number of separate contractors.
"It's quite clear there's a very significant challenge coming from SpaceX, " he said. "Therefore things have to change … and the whole European industry is being restructured, consolidated, rationalised and streamlined.
"If you're going to reduce costs then what does that mean? It means a reduction in jobs – SpaceX is achieving a lot with a lot fewer people than there are present in the European industry."
Arianespace has long been seen as the planet's most reliable commercial launch provider. NBN picked Arianepace over Russia's Proton rocket, which last week suffered a catastrophic launch failure that destroyed a Mexican communications satellite.
But SpaceX has successfully launched 18 times since 2010 at much lower costs and signed a $US1.6 billion contract with NASA to resupply the International Space Station.
SpaceX is also working on a program to re-use its Falcon 9 rockets by landing them at designated locations. Its founder Mr Musk has claimed successfully doing so could slash costs by a hundred-fold.
But Mr Bowles said that doing so could in fact slash SpaceX's key advantage, which is to slash the amount each rocket costs by mass-producing them.
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