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ESA contemplates major rule change

June 21, 2024

The European Space Agency (ESA) has always worked on the basis that it would reward contributing nations with contracts that were more or less equal to their investments into ESA. There are 22 member states in ESA including the UK.

This return on investment is dubbed by ESA as its “geographic return”.

A meeting of the ESA ruling council is proposing amending the historic rule in order to operate more efficiently while ensuring that its incoming cash flow remains intact.

However, the geo-return has frequently forced prime contractors to restrict their subcontractors to those from a specific country, and this is often cited as the reason for manufacturing delays and unwanted complications.

The ESA council has decided to streamline its procurement on a few test projects and to see how the experiment works out. Another aim is to ensure value for money and improve competition amongst suppliers.

But the plan is not a guarantee of success. Some nations are hugely protective of their local space industries and if – for example – Italy is funding 65 per cent of the Italian-made Vega rocket system, then it is likely to seek a return that’s commensurate to its funding.

ESA DG Josef Aschbacher, in a press briefing, said ESA will test the new system on a few pilot projects to see how it works.

“We have yet to identify the right ones, but I am sure we have some good candidates. This is something we would like to practice on some examples,” Aschbader explained.

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