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ESA to choose SpaceX as launch gap-filler?

August 15, 2022

The European Space Agency (ESA) is contemplating using a number of SpaceX launch rockets to maintain its scientific and governmental missions because of delays to Ariane’s rockets and the absence of Russian rockets because of the Ukraine boycotts.

ESA’s DG Josef Aschbacher, talking to Reuters, said that there were a number of options including Japanese and Indian rocket launchers while ESA was awaiting delivery of Arianespace’s own Ariane-6 rocket which is much delayed and, says the Reuters report, suffering an “unresolved timetable”.

“I would say there are two and a half options that we’re discussing. One is SpaceX that is clear. Another one is possibly Japan,” said Aschbacher. “Japan is waiting for the inaugural flight of its next generation rocket. Another option could be India. SpaceX, I would say, is the more operational of those and certainly one of the back-up launches we are looking at.”

There are also a number of technical considerations to be included, and Aschbacher said that ESA had not yet asked for commercial offers yet from any of the potential suppliers.

“The likelihood of the need for back-up launches is high,” he continued. “The order of magnitude is certainly a good handful of launches that we would need interim solutions for.”

Aschbacher added that a more precise timetable would emerge in October and that would allow a firmer back-up plan to be presented to Europe’s space ministers at a November meeting of ESA’s 22-nation members.

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