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Arianespace Chief Executive Nearly Praises Rival SpaceX

Arianespace CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall. Credit: Arianespace photo

Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall, who has been unrelenting in his disparagement of competitor Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), on Oct. 26 came perilously close to praising the California startup launch services provider.

In a roundtable discussion on the risks that his Evry, France-based company faces, Le Gall said future threats to Arianespace’s dominant share of the global commercial satellite launch market come from two places.

The first, he said, is the nonmarket economies of Russia, China and India, all of which either have or are developing rockets to compete with Arianespace’s fleet of vehicles.

The second threat, he said, comes from “a couple of guys in a garage in Silicon Valley that start with a blank sheet of paper and come up with a brilliant idea.”

Le Gall did not mention SpaceX and possibly was not even thinking of the Hawthorne, Calif.-based competitor, which booked more than $1 billion in commercial satellite launch orders before demonstrating its ability to deliver payloads to commercial orbits.

Le Gall continued the analogy, saying that the response of established vendors should be like IBM’s response to Microsoft and other software and hardware competitors: Evolve or die.

IBM, he said, has been able to thrive by adapting its product line in the face of new competitive challenges. It was Le Gall’s way of arguing that Europe should adapt its Ariane rocket series.

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