PARIS: France, Germany and Italy, the three biggest contributors to the European Space Agency, announced on Tuesday that they had agreed to guarantee the future of rocket launcher systems from new generation Ariane 6 and Vega-C.
The countries also reaffirmed their preference for European rockets, after the agency was forced to turn to US company SpaceX to launch two future science missions.
Ministers in charge of space for ESA’s 22 member states are meeting in Paris on Tuesday and Wednesday to determine the agency’s funding for the next three years, with a plan of 3.2 billion euros ( 3.3 billion dollars) for the leading European space launchers. Agenda.
“The public funding necessary for the balance of the institutional and commercial operation of Ariane 6 and Vega-C will be reviewed in order to take into account the evolution of market prices, institutional prices, economic conditions”, indicates a joint ministerial statement from Frenchman Bruno Le Maire. , the German Robert Habeck and the Italian Adolfo Urso.
ESA has had to scramble to find a way to send its missions into space after Russia withdrew its Soyuz rockets in response to European sanctions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine earlier this year.
The agency has also been affected by delays to Ariane 6, which is expected to replace the successful Ariane 5.
Ariane 6’s maiden flight was originally scheduled for 2020, but has now been pushed back to the end of 2023.
For Ariane 6 and the smaller Vega-C, “the allocation of funding will be proportionate to the commercial risks taken” to ensure their long-term competitiveness, the ministers said.
The three countries have also offered to allow ESA to use European-made micro and mini launch systems, currently being developed by Germany and France.
The final decision on the way forward would be made by December 2023, the statement said.
Daniel Neuenschwander, director of space transport at ESA, told AFP that “we are very happy with this joint statement because it allows us to create the conditions” to obtain the necessary funding for launcher programs at the end of the advice.
He also said the declaration means that countries recognize “interdependence in programs where they have common interests”, whether for Ariane 6 led by France, Vega-C led by Italy or micro and mini launchers promoted by Germany.
ESA 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% on the previous amount.
Opening the council on Tuesday, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said “all the science and technology we aim for can only flourish in a healthy economic environment.”
Aschbacher told the ministers that their countries would derive enormous economic benefits from funding ESA space programs.
While the space industry is worth around 340 billion euros today, it would reach around a trillion euros by 2040, he said.
The budget decision, expected to be announced on Wednesday, comes amid growing competition from China and other countries, as well as private companies such as SpaceX.
French Economy Minister Le Maire called on Europe to “be united” in space.
“At the end of these discussions, there must be a single Europe, a single European space policy and unwavering unity in the face of Chinese ambitions and American ambitions,” he said during the council meeting.
“There is a price for independence. If we want to be independent, we have to put money on the table.”

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