ESA Ministers Fund Orion Service Module, Punt Ariane Decision to 2014

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Wrapping up two days of meetings in Naples, Italy, ESA’s ministers decided to back a plan to provide a service module for NASA’s Orion MultipurposeCrew Vehicle (MPCV) but delayed any decision about the continent’s next generation launcher.

Ministers secured investments for the detailed definition studies of the new launcher Ariane 6 and the continuation of the development of Ariane 5 ME adapted, with the goal to develop as many commonalities as possible between the two launchers. These activities are funded for two years with a decision on the continuation of both launchers to be taken in 2014.

Ministers gave the green light for Europe to provide the service module of NASA’s new Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) as an in-kind contribution for ISS operations for 2017–20. This decision is strategically important for Europe as it will enable a cooperation between ESA and NASA on the future human space transportation system.

The Ariane 5 ME, which is backed by Germany, involves an upgrade ESA’s existing rocket so it can launch heavier payloads at a lower cost. Under the Ariane 6 plan, which is supported by France, ESA would fund a smaller, modular rocket from scratch capable of launching single payloads into orbit. The current Ariane 5 rocket is hampered somewhat by the need to pair up two communications satellites for each launch.

NASA’s MPCV is designed to take astronauts beyond low Earth orbit. ESA will base the service module on its Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which carries cargo to the International Space Station.

The Ariane and MPCV were the weightiest issues facing the ESA ministers, who approved the expenditure of €10 billion ($12.83 billion) for 2013-17.

An ESA press release with more details follows.

NAPLES (ESA PR) — ESA has just concluded a successful two-day Council meeting at ministerial level in Naples, Italy. Ministers from ESA’s 20 member states and Canada today allocated €10 billion [$12.83 billion] for ESA’s space activities and programmes for the years to come.

Apart from the 20 ESA Member States and Canada, several observers were also present at the Ministerial Council: Seven out of the 9 EU Member States that are not yet Member States of ESA (Estonia, Hungary, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, the Slovak Republic and Malta); the European Commission, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Science Foundation, the European Defence Agency (EDA), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), the European GNSS Agency (GSA) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Ministers focused the investments on fields with high growth potential or with a direct and immediate impact on the economy such as telecommunications and meteorology. They approved ESA’s level of resources for 2013-17, the proposals for the domain of Earth Observation and confirmed Europe’s commitment to the exploitation of the International Space Station (ISS).

Ministers secured investments for the detailed definition studies of the new launcher Ariane 6 and the continuation of the development of Ariane 5 ME adapted, with the goal to develop as many commonalities as possible between the two launchers. These activities are funded for two years with a decision on the continuation of both launchers to be taken in 2014.

Ministers gave the green light for Europe to provide the service module of NASA’s new Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) as an in-kind contribution for ISS operations for 2017–20. This decision is strategically important for Europe as it will enable a cooperation between ESA and NASA on the future human space transportation system.

Ministers of ESA Member States approved a Political Declaration towards the European Space Agency that best serves Europe. In doing so, Ministers have initiated a process able to define how ESA can adapt its operations to take benefit of both, its intergovernmental framework and the EU competence in space. They have also stated their willingness to ensure coordination and coherence between the process initiated on the ESA side and the one initiated on the EU side. This Political Declaration was also supported by the Ministers from the 7 EU member States not yet members of ESA present at the meeting.

Ministers decided to hold the next Council at ministerial level in spring 2014.

1 Response to “ESA Ministers Fund Orion Service Module, Punt Ariane Decision to 2014”


  1. 1 Michael Martin-Smith

    If ESA has postponed a decision of the future of Ariane 5ME or 6 until spring 2014, events may well push them in another direction.

    1/ Reaction Engine Ltd’s Skylon should have finalised its lightweight precooler tests early in 2013, while a working SABRE engine would be under active construction for a demo in 2014/5

    2/ SpaceX’s Grasshopper VTVL reusability programme should have launched and recovered its Falcon 9 test stage from an altitude of 2.5 or 5 miles by then, with full first stage separation altitude during the summer/autumn of 2014. This design would be proved either feasible or infeasible by the Spring. If remotely feasible, Elon Musk is unlikely to give up, thus presenting ESA with a major headache

    If either of these two reusble concepts is as far advanced by that time as seems possible, ESA will be facing the obsloesecne of all presently conceived Ariane designs, and would have to choose, decisvely, between Skylon or a VTVL reusable rocket launcher of ESA design. So far, Skylon appears to offer the best prospect, as it could be presented as an European programme.

    Thus ESA’s conservative policy carries great risks!

    Failing thst, the UK could and should go it alone!

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