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European space in crisis due to a contract between the EU and SpaceX

© SpaceX

Europe was in a dead end, it found an escape route with SpaceX, but perhaps doomed itself in the same way. To understand this puzzle on the old continent, we must start by taking stock of the forces present.

Europe has a rapidly expanding New Space sector. Many light launchers are under development and should reach low orbit in the coming years. At the same time, ArianeGroup continues to develop Ariane 6. We have just learned that the first booster of the rocket was ready. The first flight of this new generation should take place during the summer.

If the future is bright for European space, it is its situation at the moment that is dramatic. Indeed, Europe today does not have any rocket capable of launching satellites into geostationary orbit (3,600 km).

However, Europe urgently needs to update its Galileo constellation, responsible for navigation and Earth observation. Without a launch in the coming months, Galileo could lose its luster and be technologically overtaken by the American GPS system, a geostrategic setback that the old continent cannot afford.

SpaceX to the rescue

To avoid this, Europe announced, at the end of last year, the signature of a partnership contract with SpaceX. The American company, owned by Elon Musk, must support four Galileo satellite launches.

But this dependence on an external entity like SpaceX is very bad news for Europe. Indeed, the old continent is today a SpaceX client. The American company is then free to set the prices it wants for these launches, given that it is the only acceptable solution for Europe. The other option being to launch these satellites with a Chinese or Russian rocket, a geopolitically impossible alternative.

The trap closes

While the development of Ariane 6 is behind schedule, and the rocket already has some characteristics from another era (powder booster, non-reusable first stage&# 8230;) Europe sees in SpaceX an increasingly “suitable” to launch space missions.

Already last year, in the heart of summer, Europe used a rocket of the Elon Musk company to send its Euclid space telescope into orbit. The multiplication of these flights carried out by SpaceX on behalf of the European Space Agency will be monitored in the coming years. In the space domain, sovereignty is a fragile asset, which can easily be lost.

A drama for dozens of companies

But the first affected by the signing of this contract between Europe and SpaceX are not The States that will lose their space sovereignty are above all the dozens of companies currently working on a space launcher. The latter already face strong internal competition, and now they have to face their big brother SpaceX. A fight of David against Goliath, but without a slingshot this time.

For now, ESA promises that as soon as a European launch solution is capable of sending satellites into orbit securely, it will be favored over SpaceX. These promises could, however, be easily swept aside by SpaceX's offers, which are much more financially attractive than young European companies.

It will therefore be necessary to carefully monitor the next choices of the & #8217;ESA. The European Space Agency will surely still use SpaceX rockets in the years to come, but will this be at the expense of less advanced European companies? Only the # 8217;future will tell.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116