Whatever impact it has on the European manned space program in the long run, the American accident is sure to enhance the European unmanned space program in the short run. The European rocket Ariane has proven a stiff competitor to the U.S. space shuttle in the market for launching satellites. By the end of 1984, the Ariane had captured 40% of the market. By mid-1985, orders or options had been placed for more than 40 Ariane launchings.
As part of the show of optimism here, officials appeared intent on creating the impression that the Hermes space shuttle is unlikely to suffer the same fate as the Challenger. Under the program, a new Ariane 5 rocket, which will cost an estimated $2.6 billion, will be developed by 1995. It will have the power to launch the Hermes, which will carry from two to six astronauts and be about half the size of the U.S. space shuttle.
Bernard Deloffre, the Hermes program director at Aeriospatiale, the prime contractor, said the Hermes would probably have an advantage over the U.S. space shuttle in an emergency during launching.