It’s rocket science: EU accelerates space ambitions, says Breton

PARIS (Reuters) – The European Union will invest more money in rocket launches, satellite communication and space exploration to preserve its often-unknown successes in space and keep up with the ambitions of the United States and China, its space chief said Sunday. .

FILE PHOTO: The Ariane-5 ECA launcher, which transports Thai and Mexican telecommunications satellites, takes off from the European spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana, May 27, 2006. REUTERS / ESA / CNES / ARIANESPACE / Pool / File Photo

In recent decades, Europe has tried to build independent access to space for pioneers from the US and Russia to help its industry, with successes such as the Ariane rockets or the GPS-rival satnav Galileo.

But the recent appearance of American competitor SpaceX and its reusable rockets, as well as China’s rapid advances, including the first landing on the other side of the Moon last year, is giving new urgency to Europe’s ambitions.

“Space is one of Europe’s strengths, and we are giving ourselves the means to accelerate,” European Commissioner Thierry Breton, whose report includes the space sector, told Reuters in an interview.

Breton, the former French head of IT company Atos, said that, for the first time, the EU budget will be used to support new technologies for launching rockets, including reusable ones.

The EU will sign for the first time a billion euro agreement with Arianespace with guaranteed orders to give it more visibility, in exchange for more innovation.

“SpaceX has redefined the standards for launchers, making Ariane 6 a necessary step, but not the ultimate goal: We must start thinking about Ariane 7 now,” said Breton.

Breton, who expects the European Commission to provide € 16bn for space in his next budget, said he would propose a € 1bn European Space Fund to boost startups. It also wants to launch a competition to give free access to satellites and launchers to new companies, to stimulate innovation.

For the Galileo satellite system, Breton said he would push ahead with the end of 2024 rather than 2027 with the launch of a new generation of satellites, “the most modern in the world,” which can interact with each other and provide a more accurate signal. .

It wants to launch a new satellite system that can provide high-speed Internet access to all Europeans, and begin work on a Space Traffic Management system to avoid collisions, most likely with the rapid increase in the number of satellites.

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