Arianespace was incorporated in 1980 to commercialize the Ariane launch services. Arianespace is based in Evry, France, and has a share capital of around 2.088 billion French francs. Arianespace holds over 50% of the launch market for geostationary transfer orbit; which isn't really surprising considering its only sizable competitor is NASA.

Ownership of Arianespace lies with 41 Aerospace manufacturing and engineering companies, 11 banks, and the French space agency (CNES). French ownership accounts for 57.7% of Arianespace, the remainder is held in eleven other European countries.

Arianespace kicked off its highly successful commercial launch program on May 22, 1984, when an Ariane 1 launch carried the Spacenet 1 telecommunications satellite into orbit. Prior to this launch, Arianespace had launched eight other vehicles, and since then it has had over 130 commercial flights.

In 1995, Arianespace turned a profit or about 190 million French francs, the most it has made to date (Jan 2001). Profits declined to 48 million in 1999, largely due to the expense of launching both Ariane 4 and Ariane 5, until Ariane 5 could be considered proven so that Ariane 4 could be phased out.