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Ministers deliver boost to Europe's ambitions in space

Brussels, 28 May 2003

Ministers responsible for space policy within the European Space Agency's 15 member states have agreed on measures to revitalise the flagging European launcher industry, thereby safeguarding Europe's long term access to space.

The ministers decided on a support package for the troubled Ariane 5 launcher during a meeting in Paris on 27 May, the day after finalising the financial details of the Galileo project. Agreement was also reached on moves to strengthen the relationship between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the EU.

Summing up the mood following the meeting, chair of the ESA ministerial council and German Minister for Education and Research, Edelgard Bulmahn, said: 'The decisions reached are among the most important in years. The ESA member states have provided the Ariane launcher system with the structures it needs to deal effectively with competition in a keenly disputed market. Thanks to the agreement on restructuring, policy-makers and industrialists alike can rely on planning stability over the years ahead.'

Specifically, a decision was taken to help Arianespace, Europe's commercial launch operator, resume production of the generic version of the Ariane 5 rocket, as well as to overcome the technical difficulties that have grounded its enhanced ten tonne version of the launcher.

To this end, the Vulcan 2 engine that was blamed for the failure of the first ten tonne Ariane rocket is to be redesigned, and two test flights for the spacecraft are planned for 2004. According to some reports, the total cost of the support package for Arianespace could be almost 400 million euro.

As well as financial support, the ministers also announced structural measures designed to boost the sector. They backed organisational changes aimed at strengthening links between the production and development of launchers, and initiated the development of the next generation of launchers which they hope will secure Europe's long term access to space.

Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the links between ESA and the EU, following on from a ministerial declaration in Edinburgh in 2001. At that meeting, ministers had called for a framework agreement to formalise cooperation between the two organisations, and in Paris on 27 May, they urged ESA to finalise the agreement before the end of 2003.

Following the end of the two day meeting, further details emerged of the agreement reached on financial contributions to Europe's proposed satellite navigation system, Galileo.

Four countries, France, Germany, Italy and the UK, will all contribute 17.31 per cent of the total cost of the programme, predicted to be 547 million euro. The level of Spain's contribution to the programme, which was the cause of the most recent obstacle to agreement, has been set at 10.14 per cent.

For further information on ESA launchers, please consult the following web address:
http://www.esa.int/export/esaLA/index.ht ml

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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