ESA: More Arianespace Subsidies and ISS Support Until 2020

An Ariane 5 rocket soars into orbit on Dec. 29, 2010. Credits: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique vidéo du CSG

Space News reports that the Europeans have worked out their differences on the continent’s two largest space efforts:

The European Space Agency (ESA) on March 17 agreed to commit Europe to continue participating in the international space station through 2020, and to paying 240 million euros ($318 million) over two years to support the Arianespace commercial launch consortium and the Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket, European government and industry officials said.

The two agreements, reached during a meeting of the 18-nation ESA’s ruling council, were tied together by the fact that ESA’s two biggest contributors, France and Germany, were initially on opposite sides of the two issues.

Germany, which leads Europe’s investment in the space station and wanted a major commitment to 2020, was less enthusiastic about a fresh round of Ariane 5 price supports. France, which is the main backer of the Ariane 5 launch system, has long been tepid in its support for the international space station.

The article indicates that a key part of Arianespace’s cost problems is ESA’s policy of juste retour, which requires contracts be distributed according to member states’ contributions to the space agency’s budget. This requirement has burdened Arianespace to source parts from through the continent, preventing any money-saving rationalization of the supplier base. As a result, one of the most successful rocket companies in the world lost money last year and requires subsidies.