Augsburg, August 5, 2020. “The initial launch of Ariane 6 has been postponed. This means that series production will commence at a later date and on a smaller scale than planned. The fallout from the corona pandemic is additionally exacerbating the situation. We are in a difficult position,” states Hans Steininger, CEO of MT Aerospace AG. “Unless the governments of the European countries involved express their clear commitment to stabilizing the European launcher industries in the near future and arrange full funding of the Ariane 6 development project, MT Aerospace AG faces massive economic problems before the end of the year. There is a threat of further losses of jobs and the valuable expertise that has been built up over decades. If we fail to gain any solid perspective in the early autumn, we will be forced to make unpleasant business decisions.”
In a meeting with Jürgen Kerner, a member of the management board of the IG Metall trade union, which was also attended by MT works council chairman Markus Zerle, Steininger left no doubt as to how serious the situation is.
During the successful Ariane 5 years it was still possible to largely finance the politically mandated European access to space via commercial launches. Since then, however, the international space transport market has changed radically, with demand for commercial geostationary satellites plummeting from more than 20 planned launches per year to less than ten. At the same time, launch prices have dropped by half due to the heightened pressure on prices being exerted by commercial operators in the United States and government-subsidized products in emerging space nations such as India and China.
Works council president Markus Zerle, who has been with the company for more than 30 years, agrees with this assessment of the situation: “The situation is very serious. As with our colleagues in the aircraft industry, what is ultimately at stake is the future of the aerospace site in Augsburg. We have arrived at a situation in which only decisions made at the political level can avert the dangers. The Ariane 6 is a political project aimed at securing autonomous European access to space in a European partnership. Action must be taken to preserve these plans.”
“Unfortunately, the reality is that in the foreseeable future the European launcher industry can only sustainably plan the institutional market with around four to five launches per year,” explains Hans Steininger. “As things currently stand, it is impossible to say how Ariane 6 will fare in competition in the commercial market. The strategic challenge for European policymakers is to redefine the business model underlying autonomous European space transport; the short term challenge is to ensure the relevant companies’ continued existence.”
Against this backdrop, the company’s management and works council have agreed to draw the attention of the relevant decision-makers in federal and Bavarian state politics to this dramatic situation. Jürgen Kerner, a member of the management board of the IG Metall trade union, promised to use all avenues available to him to support this alliance in favor of keeping the space industry alive in Augsburg.