Arianespace orders 18 rockets for 2 bn euros

European space giant Arianespace said Saturday it has agreed to buy 18 Ariane 5 rockets from EADS subsidiary Astrium for a total of more than 2.0 billion euros ($2.75 billion).

The deal was signed at the French space centre in Kourou, Guyana, as French President Francois Hollande looked on.

The rockets are to be launched from 2017 and follow an order of 35 in 2009, Arianespace said in a statement.

Astrium, which had a turnover of more than 5.8 billion euros last year, is to merge next year with the defence division of EADS under the name of Airbus Defense and Space.