European Space Program Grinds to a Halt

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The European Space Program launched its last rocket in the Ariane 5 series, all the while the Ariane 6 program is not ready for deployment, Reuters reports.

The last Ariane mission deployed two satellites for Germany and France from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, located in South America. Satellites are critical for Europe’s great power status, whether with its Galileo GPS competitor, or other military applications such as signals intelligence.

The CEO of Airbus, which co-owns manufacturer ArianeGroup with France’s Safran, said in June the gap highlighted Europe’s “vulnerability” in space. “All pressure is now on Ariane 6,” Guillaume Faury told the Paris Air Forum.

SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space venture, is revolutionizing the industry with its inexpensive rockets, making launches more common. This has been both a problem for the expensive Ariane 5 program, but also providing a blueprint for Europe to cut costs in its Ariane 6.

Europe has had to rely on the Russian space program Soyuz to fulfill some of its payload needs. Russia suspended all access to its space program for Europe following the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Russia still cooperates with NASA and SpaceX, soon to send its own cosmonaut to the International Space Station in a SpaceX launcher.

Without Ariane 6 ready for launch, Europe now has a critical space gap. Europe might have to rely on American rockets in the meantime, though the US’s space program is not without its own issues. The European space program should be operational by 2024.


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