France, Germany and Italy agree on the next generation of space rockets

European Union

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France, Germany and Italy, the three largest contributors to the European Space Agency, said on Tuesday that they had agreed to guarantee the future of the next generation of Ariane 6 and VegaC rocket launch systems.

The countries also reaffirmed their preference for European missiles, after the agency was forced to turn to the American company SpaceX to launch two scientific missions in the future.

The space ministers responsible for space of the European Space Agency’s 22 member states meet in Paris on Tuesday and Wednesday to determine the agency’s funding for the next three years, with a 3.2 billion euro ($3.3 billion) plan for European very high space launch platforms. schedule of work.

“The public funding needed to balance the institutional and commercial exploitation of Ariane 6 and Vega-C will be reviewed in order to take into account the evolution of market prices, institutional prices and economic conditions,” said a joint ministerial statement issued by France’s Bruno Le Maire. German Robert Habeck and Italian Adolfo Orso.

The European Space Agency was forced to search for a way to send its missions into space after Russia withdrew its Soyuz rockets in retaliation for European sanctions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine earlier this year.

The agency has also been affected by delays in Ariane 6, which is set to replace the successful Ariane 5.

The first flight of the Ariane 6 was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, but has now been pushed back to the end of 2023.

For Ariane 6 and the smaller Vega C, “the allocation of financing will be commensurate with the commercial risks taken” to ensure their long-term competitiveness, the ministers said.

The three countries have also proposed allowing the European Space Agency (ESA) to use European-made nano and small launch systems – currently being developed by Germany and France.

The statement said a final decision on the way forward would be agreed upon by December 2023.

“We are very pleased with this joint announcement because it makes it possible to create the conditions” for the necessary funding for launch programs at the end of the council, Daniel Neuschwander, director of space transportation at the European Space Agency, told AFP.

He also said the declaration means that countries recognize “interdependence in programs where they have common interests,” whether for the French-led Ariane 6 program, the Italian-led VegaC, or the precision and small launch platforms promoted by Germany.

Calls for European unity

The European Space Agency is asking its member states to contribute €18.5 billion to fund space programs over the next three years – an increase of more than 25 percent over the previous amount.

Opening the council on Tuesday, ESA Director General Josef Achbacher said “whatever science and technology we aim at can only thrive in a healthy economic environment.”

Aschbacher told the ministers that their countries would reap huge economic benefits from funding the European Space Agency’s space programmes.

He said that while the space industry now represents about 340 billion euros, it will reach about 1 trillion euros by 2040.

The budget decision, expected to be announced on Wednesday, comes amid increased competition from China and other countries, as well as from private companies such as SpaceX.

French Economy Minister Le Maire called on Europe to be “unified” in space.

“At the end of these discussions, there must be one Europe, one European space policy and unwavering unity in the face of Chinese ambitions and American ambitions,” he said at the council meeting.

“There is a price to being independent. If we want to be independent, we have to put money on the table.”

© 2022 AFP

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