The European Space Agency is considering temporarily sending payloads into space on SpaceX rockets. ESA boss Josef Aschbacher told the Reuters news agency. There are already initial talks and technical agreements. The step would take into account the fact that since the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Europe no longer has access to Russian Soyuz rockets, which were previously used regularly. Nothing has been decided yet, Aschbacher says it is also possible to switch to Japanese or Indian missiles. He is also confident that it is only a transitional period until the European Ariane 6 is ready for use.
Too dependent on Russia
Europe has so far relied on the European Vega rocket for launches of small payloads, on the Soyuz for medium-sized ones and on the Ariane 5 for the largest ones. A continuous transition from Ariane 5 to Ariane 6 was actually planned, but this has recently been delayed more and more. A few weeks ago, the first launch of an Ariane 6 was postponed to 2023 at the earliest. The remaining Ariane 5 launches are fully booked and the Soyuz are no longer available. Whether an alternative will actually be necessary for a transitional period will become apparent in the autumn, says Aschbacher. Then it will be clear when the Ariane 6 can take off. However, the probability that a handful of launches will have to be launched with another rocket is already high.
All remaining launches with Russian Soyuz rockets from the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana were canceled in early March. This was a reaction to the Russian attack on Ukraine, and it seems unlikely that Russian technology will be used again. Aschbacher described the war to Reuters as a wake-up call that showed that Russia was too dependent. The space company OneWeb, which is building a constellation for satellite internet, was particularly affected by the move away from Russian missiles. It later switched to SpaceX for the launches.
So far, Elon Musk’s space company has benefited particularly from the disappearance of the Russian alternatives and is collecting more and more orders. The company has been showing for weeks and months that SpaceX can master high-frequency launches by building its own Starlink satellite internet. In July, it broke its own record for the most rocket launches in a year.
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