Tim Furniss/LONDON

Arianespace, the European commercial-launcher organisation, says that moves to integrate it further with European aerospace companies could result in a conflict of commercial interest with some potential customers.

The company, which is likely to become fully privatised in 1998, says that stronger links with European satellite manufacturers, particularly Aerospatiale, which purchase launches for international customers, would be untenable.

French space agency CNES, which already holds more than 30% of Arianespace, is likely to offer its stake to Aerospatiale, which has the lion's share of the remaining French industry's 55% holding in the launcher company. There are fears that an Aerospatiale-dominated Arianespace could change the commercial position of the launcher company, putting off international customers - such as US satellite manufacturers, which purchase launches for some customers.

In the meantime, Arianespace further strengthened its orderbook with its selection on 15 December to launch three Intelsat 9 communications satellites aboard Ariane 5 boosters. The first is scheduled for launch in 2000.

The contract to launch the Intelsat 902, 903 and 904 communications spacecraft will bring to 43 the number of satellites in the Arianespace orderbook.

The next launch for the company is scheduled to be the V104/Ariane 42L, carrying the Intelsat 804 satellite into orbit on 23 December.

Source: Flight International