Posted 24 August 2014 - 04:51
Arianespace bought Russian Soyuz/Fregat rockets for launching medium-heavy sized payloads, Europe's Ariane 5 being overkill for such payloads and very expensive.
Unfortunately, Russia is having a huge quality control problem with some of their aging launcher fleet. The Proton has screwed itself into the ground several times, Zenit (though partly Ukrainian made) likewise and now the Soyuz/Fregat is showing signs.
Not a good sign, Boris.
Their new Angara has one suborbital flight so far, though it was a single "common" core, lightweight class rocket. Versions to replace their larger launchers will use 5-7 common cores strapped together. They are also re-centralizing their rocket industry under govt. control.
One of their deign bureaus is also working on Soyuz 5, a methane fueled medium-heavy class launcher.
These may, or may not, fix the quality issues by simplifying the rockets. We'll see. In the rest of the world de-centralization has been the path.
Now Arianespace has to decide what to do. Size Ariane 6 to the medium-heavy class market to avoid the Russian quality issue, or abandon it to SpaceX who is gaining market share by the day.