Strong praise for SpaceX, France’s arch-rival rocket launching system, was not expected at a French parliamentary hearing on July 7th. Especially when the praise came in a comment from the head of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) launcher directorate, Gaele Winters.
He told the French delegates that SpaceX had been an outstanding success. “Despite the [launch failure] of about a week ago, it is a fantastic track record for this launcher.”
Winters was appearing before the French Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific & Technology Choices, which meets regularly to review France, and Europe’s, space policy. The meeting took place as part of an overview and status report on progress at Arianespace, and in particular its new Ariane 6 rocket now under development.
Winters is expected to ask ESA to approve a near-$3 billion contract for the Airbus-Safran consortium to go ahead and build Ariane 6.
Arianespace chief executive Stephane Israel also talked about SpaceX and the June 28th launch failure, saying: “They will need to meet the challenge of the return to flight – and of course they will succeed in this.”
More implied praise for SpaceX came from Eutelsat’s CEO Michel de Rosen, who told delegates that the satellite industry needed a utility launch vehicle, “not a sports car or luxury car.” He admitted that Eutelsat had shown loyalty to Europe in choosing Arianespace to launch most of its satellites, but it could not abandon value-for-money priorities.