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Space


Europe and Space Transportation Systems

It is more than 30 years since a group of European governments decided that Europe needed guaranteed access to space, and that it made sense to combine their efforts to achieve this goal. Thanks to their foresight, Europe developed a range of launchers and has its own launch base in French Guiana.

Access to space brings many benefits. Space exploration provides greater knowledge of our solar system, better navigation and telecommunication systems, and the means to monitor our environment. This is only possible because Europe have the launchers capable of placing satellites accurately into space.

Ariane is the tangible sign of what Europe can do when it is genuinely united. The benefits of space exploration have expanded in ways which could not have been envisaged even 30 years ago. Space applications will continue to grow, which is why guaranteed access to space now, and in the future, is so important.

The European Union and ESA recognise the growing importance of space and for a number of years have been working together to draw up a European strategy for space. This strategy aims to ensure that Europe is equipped to face the future with confidence. This means ensuring that Europe has the launchers to meet institutional and commercial demands, and ensuring that Europe’s Spaceport remains a byword for excellence and reliability.

ESA is able to build on its years of experience of developing launchers to:

  • maintain the competitiveness and affordability of Ariane launchers
  • foster the creation of a European institutional market for Ariane
  • ensure that Europe can respond to market demands by developing the small launcher Vega and facilitating the use of Europe’s Spaceport by the Russian Soyuz rocket
  • support European industry, technology and research capabilities by improving industrial competitiveness and promoting innovation
  • create employment
  • develop the next generation of launchers
  • maintain the ground infrastructure needed for launches
  • encourage international cooperation and play a leading role in future developments

Supporting European industry has always been an important part of ESA’s strategy. When an Ariane launcher heads into space more than 12 000 Europeans, working in more than 100 European companies, can be proud of having contributed to such an impressive event. In 2003, after the decisions made by the ESA Council, the roles and responsibilities of the public and private sector were redefined to achieve a better balance between the two sectors:

  • The design, development and manufacture of launchers is carried out by a number of industries throughout Europe. A single industrial prime contractor for each launcher is responsible for the whole process.
  • Arianespace, the European space transportation company linked to ESA by a Convention, is in charge of executing the operational launcher exploitation phase, including procurement from the launcher system prime contractor, and the marketing and launch of launchers.
  • ESA is responsible for the overall management of launcher programmes by making the best use of the skills available in the national space organisations of ESA Member States.

Launchers now represent the second largest area of space-manufacturing activity in Europe after commercial satellites, boosting European industry.

For many years, Ariane was Europe’s only launcher and was used to guarantee access to space for European governments. This market alone could not sustain the availability of the service so Ariane has evolved to meet the needs of the worldwide commercial market, where it has been extremely successful.

A new launch site for Soyuz was built in French Guiana to complement the performance range offered by Ariane. It is now fully operational and adds to the flexibility and competitiveness of Europe's fleet of launchers. In parallel, Vega was developed to cope with a wide range of missions and smaller payload capability. Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega are exploited from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Europe benefits from a family of launchers with the capability and flexibility to cover all European government and most commercial market needs, thus increasing the socio-economic benefits of access to space in Europe.

At ESA’s Council meeting at Ministerial level in Naples, Italy, in November 2012, Ministers secured investments for the detailed definition studies of the new Ariane 6 and the continuing development of the Adapted Ariane 5 ME, with the goal of creating as many commonalities as possible between the two vehicles.

These activities are funded for two years ahead of a decision on the continuation of both launchers to be taken in 2014. Ministers funded Vega’s evolution (Vega Consolidation and Evolution Preparation Programme: VECEP) for 2013–16 as well as the Launchers Exploitation Accompaniment Programme (LEAP) to provide a stable framework for exploiting ESA’s launchers for 2013–14.

They also authorised development to begin on the successor to the Intermediate Experimental Vehicle: the Programme for Reusable In-orbit Demonstrator in Europe, or Pride. Pride aims to create an affordable, small and reusable unmanned spaceplane.





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Page last modified: 09-02-2015 19:04:56 ZULU