France 'eyes Airbus-Safran tie-up for launch rockets'

June 16, 2014

European aerospace group Airbus and French rocket-maker Safran are looking at jointly making next-generation launch rockets to compete with US firm SpaceX, the French financial newspaper Les Echos said Sunday in a report on its website.

Airbus chief Tom Enders and Safran boss Jean-Paul Herteman are to meet French President Francois Hollande in Paris early Monday, after which a deal is expected to be announced for their companies to jointly manufacture Europe's Ariane 6 rockets, Les Echos said.

The deal was being made because, "despite proven reliability, Ariane suffers from an overly fragmented industrial organisation... that badly hurts its competitiveness" while Space X "works in a totally integrated fashion", Los Echos reported.

The Ariane 6 rockets are designed to put single payloads into orbit and are to be cheaper than the heavier and bigger Ariane 5 rockets currently used, which carry two satellites at once.

SpaceX, a private US company, already sends up smaller, cheaper launch rockets and is steadily taking over some launches that NASA used to handle.

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