Space Europe wants to put the means ahead of the Americans and the Chinese

Stay in the race for space or, at least, don’t fall too far behind. As Americans and Chinese have revived space exploration, as private projects multiply across the Atlantic, starting with Elon Musk’s constellation of Starlink satellites, to transmit high-speed Internet, Europe pales in comparison. . Its access to space is weakened by the delay of its Ariane-6 rocket and Franco-German tensions penalize some projects. This contrast is reinforced by the dynamism of several countries, which have their own space agency, not forgetting India, which is preparing its first manned flight.

It is in this context that the twenty-two ministers of the member countries of the European Space Agency (ESA) meet in Paris from Monday 21 to Wednesday 23 November. This triennial meeting aims to define the budget of the institution for the next three years and to distribute it among the various programs. For the period 2023-2025, ESA is asking its members for 18.5 billion euros, an increase of 25% compared to the period 2020-2022. Never seen. “We have to stay in the race with the Americans and Chinese, whose means are growing at this rateassures its managing director, Josef Aschbacher. We must not repeat in the space sector what we have done in information technology. We stopped investing twenty years ago and were relegated to the second division…”

“We have rearranged the teams”

Priority is given to space transportation. The goal is to get Ariane-6 off the ground as quickly as possible. The maiden flight is now set for Q4 2023, three and a half years behind the original schedule. “We have reorganized the teams to respond to the technical challenges we have encounteredrecalls Mr. Aschbacher. While I’m not making excuses, I want to remind you that these are extremely complex technologies. »

However, this delay puts European independence at risk, because between the last flight of Ariane-5, scheduled for spring 2023, and the entry into commercial service of its successor, it will be several months, or perhaps even more than one year. Europeans will therefore no longer have a heavy launcher to place satellites in geostationary orbit, 36,000 kilometers from the Earth.

“Europe is in a tense situation and will face some sensitive years” – Philippe Baptiste, CEO of the National Center for Space Studies

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