Arianespace ended the Paris air show with its sixth contract, securing the launch of France's Syracuse III military communications satellite, an Alcatel Space Spacebus 3100 platform, aboard an Ariane 5 booster in late 2003.

During last month's show, Arianespace had already signed contracts to launch three satellites for PanAmSat, Inmarsat and the European Space Agency's Rosetta explorer. The company now has 54 spacecraft on its orderbook and says it is on track to meet its objective to book 12 to 15 new contracts this year.

The company has also firmed up its schedule for the next four launches. Flight V142, will fly Artemis and B-SAT 2b aboard an Ariane 5 on 12 July. V143 will be launched in August, with an Ariane 4 model carrying Intelsat 902. By the end of October V144 will be launched, carrying Atlantic Bird 2 and Insat 3C on an Ariane 5, to be followed by the same launcher carrying the Envisat polar platform on V145.

There have been five Arianespace launches this year, carrying six satellites on three Ariane 4s and one Ariane 5.

Gerard Brachet, director general of French space agency CNES, anticipates that the cost of Ariane 5 launches will be reduced following upgrades being made to the vehicle and a reduction in prices for the next batches of the booster.

Lockheed Martin-led International Launch Services is in final contract talks with Inmarsat to launch at least one of its next generation Inmarsat-4 satellites during 2003-04 using the Atlas V booster. The contract includes options for two other satellites and is similar to the contract awarded to Arianespace. Both companies have one firm order and two options for launches. Three Inmarsat-4 craft, including one ground spare, are being built. The contract would make Inmarsat the sixth commercial customer to sign up for the Atlas V, due to make its maiden flight next year.

Source: Flight International