The Director General of the European Space Agency said it was crucial to rebuild Europe’s access to space after the failed launch of a European rocket carrying two Earth observation satellites last year and the late submission of the Ariane 6 launch pad.
In an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday, Joseph Ashbacher said his “priority is to re-establish access to space, to ensure access to space for Europe. And I’m going to work on that in all dimensions.”
Until then, he said, Europe should look for alternative solutions outside the continent — including Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
ESA is working to determine the causes of the failed launch of the Vega C rocket in French Guiana, Ashbacher said, with results of the investigation expected in less than a month.
The Vega C launch was intended to deliver two Earth-observing satellites built by Airbus, Pleiades Neo 5 and 6, into orbit. The satellites would have been part of a constellation capable of taking pictures of any point on the globe with a resolution of 30 cm (11.8 in).
“It’s not a good thing to have three failures in two years,” Achbacher said, referring to Vega’s earlier mistakes. “And that’s something where we really need to look at how we need to change some of the practices or quality management processes that we have in place to make sure it’s safe when Vega C gets back on board, but also as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, as Ariane 5 prepares for retirement, the delayed launch of Ariane 6 increases Europe’s ability to send satellites into space amid fierce competition from SpaceX and other rocket programs in the United States and China.
The first flight of the medium-to-heavy Ariane 6 rocket is planned for mid-2020, but after several delays, its launch is not expected before the last quarter of this year.
“Of course, the top priority is getting Ariane 6 on the launch pad,” said Achbacher. “We still have some Technical problem To solve it and I do not hide it. They are serious, and we really have to succeed.”
In addition, the Russian Space Agency has ended Soyuz launches at the European Spaceport in French Guiana, in retaliation for ESA’s decision to implement sanctions imposed by its members on Russia over its war in Ukraine, leaving Europe with fewer options.
Until proper access to space is restored, Aschbacher said Europe needs to look for alternative solutions outside the continent.
“It could be SpaceX, it could also be someone else,” he said. “We may need a temporary solution in the next one, or maybe two years at most.”
Asked about Musk’s competition, Ashbacher said, “It puts facts on the table that you have to factor in how you develop.”
He added, “In a way, it also helps our argument because you have a clear player who is developing.” “In some areas we have to catch up. … But I think it also energizes and strengthens our engineers and scientists to make sure we have good solutions to move this forward. So overall, I think that really helps.” Void the entire sector.”
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