On November 6 and 7, member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) held a “space summit” in Seville, Spain, to discuss the field of space, making it seem that only the American SpaceX company is flying .
ESA Director General Joseph Eschbacher said the decision to boost competition would mark a turning point for Europe’s aerospace industry.
small, low-cost rockets
Speaking at the conference, Mr. Eschbacher emphasized that “a new economy growing in low Earth orbit will transform space exploration.” He also said that private companies are “revolutionizing” every corner of the sector, from launch pads to exploration activities.
“We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in space transportation,” Mr. Eschbacher said. Thus, European countries will move from designing and purchasing their own launchers to promoting competition to help reduce public costs and create new markets for private companies in the region.
The trend that Europe is aiming at is the development of small rocket systems that will in the long term replace the heavy Ariane 6 and Vega-C rockets that will remain Europe’s main space transportation vehicles in the future. middle term.
“This is a revolution of mini rockets because people now want to buy services,” expert Antoine Meunier told Reuters news agency.
Recently, Europe has been struggling to lag behind in the space race as the Ariane 6 rocket project has been delayed, while the smaller Vega-C rocket model is temporarily halting operations to fix errors and difficulties. Difficulties using Russia’s Soyuz rocket service to tensions related to the conflict in Ukraine.
The Ariane 6 project is already four years behind schedule and the participating countries have been in tension for months. According to Reuters, France has lobbied for increased support for the Ariane 6 program, while Germany wants to promote competition in the field of rocket launches and Italy wants a bigger role for the Vega-C rocket produced in that country.
At the conference in Seville, France, Germany and Italy broke the deadlock and reached an agreement which was also supported by other ESA countries. Accordingly, the countries will provide annual assistance of up to 340 million euros (364.5 million USD) for the Ariane 6 program and 21 million euros (22.5 million USD) for Vega-C from 2026. This will help project contractors feel more secure, although in return the industry will have to cut costs by 11%.
Deliver cargo to ISS
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said, “This is a major breakthrough and a defining moment in the history of European space. It maintains European unity on the issue of access to space.”
Meanwhile, Mr Aschbacher said the medium-term support agreement for Ariane 6 and Vega-C was “a huge relief” and Europe expected to announce the launch date of the Ariane 6 rocket earlier this month.
Europe’s decision comes as the sector faces increasing competition not only from the US but also from new rivals such as China, India as well as private companies such as SpaceX. Billionaire Elon Musk. The current crisis arose more than a decade ago, when the sector was struggling to figure out what to do next after the Ariane 5 program.
So far Europe has tried to take the lead in scientific and climate observations, but has rarely played a major role in human exploration. Instead, they often choose supporting roles in projects for the US Aerospace Agency (NASA) or, until recently, Russia.
At first, Europe was ambitious about the Hermes spacecraft project to compete with the US manned space shuttles, but the project never got off the drawing board and was canceled in 1992.
Mr Eschbacher also proposed that European companies compete to develop a spacecraft to transport cargo back and forth between the International Space Station (ISS) and Earth by 2028.
“The service vehicle could later evolve into a crew vehicle and provide service to other destinations beyond low Earth orbit,” the ESA leader said. He called on European countries to set space ambitions.
In April 2023, ESA said that Europe should establish a “permanent presence” on the Moon and established a space transportation system as the first step in this plan.