Advanced Television

Europe seeks new rival to Ariane

February 6, 2024

Europe already has one rival to its giant Ariane rocket in the form of the Vega mid-sized launcher. However, Vega is itself subject to delays caused by a failure at the end of 2022 and in any case is only good for lower weight or orbital tasks.

Stephane Israel, chief executive of Arianespace, questioned the desirability of what he described as an extra “heavy launcher” for Europe’s multi-orbit demands.

Israel specifically addressed the upcoming massive IRIS2 broadband project which, says Israel, needed a heavy launcher that needed to be reusable and capable of 100 launchers per year. “The question is, do we need two, or one? And another question: Can we afford two?” he asked.

However, Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, director-general of the Norwegian Space Agency, disagreed. Speaking at the recent European Space Conference in Brussels in January, he said that focussing on a single launcher (i.e. Arianespace) was probably not the way to go. He argued that Europe needed to challenge the established infrastructure.

Another critic was EC Vice President Thierry Breton who stated that the EC could well take over responsibility for rocket launch development from the European Space Agency (ESA). He suggested that the ESA’s oversight of the Ariane system had been so lax that Europe currently had no operational launch vehicle. The first Ariane 6 commercial flight is scheduled for next winter.

Christophe Kautz, director of satellite navigation and Earth observation in the Commission’s DG-Defis directorate, which Breton heads up, suggested to delegates that Europe needed a working launcher that needed less public finance and that there was a range of launchers available at more competitive prices.

ESA has already invited new businesses to design larger rockets and improve competition.

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