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Right now, the cost of a Delta or Atlas is significantly higher than anything else on the market. I could see them being higher than the Soyuz or Long March, as they are made in countries with cheap labor.

But the Ariane is made using the same first world wages. How could it be so much cheaper?

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    $\begingroup$ Can you add a link to the pages where you found the launch prices? $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Sep 16 '15 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ Cost is not the same thing as price. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Sep 16 '15 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ I recommend reading this article, in particular the blue box titled "ULA is a D*ck". $\endgroup$ – Roman Reiner Sep 21 '15 at 14:50
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ULA had a captive market: they were the only supplier for US Dept of Defence launches. There was basically no pressure on them to lower prices, and the DOD market was large enough that they never bothered going after the commercial launch market.
The recent entry into the launcher market by SpaceX is shaking up this situation: ULA is no longer the sole supplier, and they're restructuring their business in an effort to lower cost to a point where they can compete.
Arianespace is subsidised by ESA to ensure independent access to space for Europe. In 2011, Arianespace had about \$1B in revenue, including \$150M in subsidies. They had 5 Ariane 5 launches in that year, 4 commercial and 1 for ESA.

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  • $\begingroup$ $$ 150 million / 5 launches is $30 million subsidy per launch. I thought the price difference was much higher than that. $\endgroup$ – esa Sep 17 '15 at 21:09

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