Politicians in Europe on Tuesday approved development of lower-cost rockets, to compete with US commercial launch providers.
Ariane 5 was a highly successful rocket developed by scientists in Europe. But it is facing stiff competition from cheaper American launchers and so the developers came out with Ariane 6. The new rocket will be relatively cheaper to construct, operate and maintain.
At the European Space Agency (ESA) in Luxemburg, member nations authorized the project at a special council meeting. The funding for the space station and a rover to go to Mars was also agreed upon. ESA nations came forward with $5 billion funding, which will henceforth cover a number of programs for the next few years.
Jean-Jacques Dordain, agency director-general said, “I think I can summarize this ministerial council by saying it is a success. I’d even go so far as to say that it is a great success.”
Since mid-1990 the Ariane 5 has been dominating the market for putting up big commercial satellites. But lately it has faced stiff competitions from other services that are cheaper to work with. ESA feared that it would lose a lot of offers in the next few years, and hence decided to come up with Ariane 6. This new rocket will employ more modern methods of production and a streamlined assembly, which is aimed at reducing costs. On top of that the new rocket’s modular design can be tailored to a wide range of satellites and missions. This will help it gain further economies from frequent use.
Europe’s two big space powers, Germany and France, came together to push for Ariane 6. But it was only after months of hard bargaining that the ESA managed to acquire the 5 billion funding. The money will not only be spent on Ariane 6, but also to upgrade ESA’s small Italian-built Vega-C rocket. And the officials also endorsed their continued participation in the International Space Station (ISS). ESA plans to spend a further $986 million on the ISS for the next three years.
Satellite operators around the world look for low priced, reliable rockets. ESA officials have become increasingly concerned about the success of Californian Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (Space X), which offers launchers at cheaper costs compared to Ariane 5. But with Ariane 6, ESA now hopes to maintain their market presence.