Arianespace staff blast liftoff into privatisation

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Control of Arianespace, the pan-European company that provides commercial launch services for spacecraft, is to be handed over to a joint venture between Airbus Group and French aero-engine maker Safran. The privatisation, via a transfer of majority shares in the company held until now by the French national space studies agency, the CNES, is expected to be formally detailed at the Paris Air Show which opens on Monday. The move has accentuated mounting tensions between staff and management of the company, amid fears of job cuts and the end of a 35-year collective public adventure that spearheaded the European space industry. Martine Orange reports on the deep malaise surrounding a controversial privatisation to be underwritten by taxpayers.

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At its weekly inter-ministerial meeting last Wednesday, the French government formally approved the transfer of shares held by France’s national space studies agency in rocket launch services provider Arianespace to a joint venture created last year by Airbus and aero-engine maker Safran, which will now have effective control of the European group.