ESA Ministers Agree to Build Ariane 6 & Vega-C, Continue ISS Support

Credit: ESA
Credit: ESA

European space ministers have agreed to spend about $10 billion over the next decade to develop the new Ariane 6 launcher and to upgrade the Vega launcher in what ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain called a “revolution” in the way rockets are developed.

Under the agreement, ESA will give industry the responsibility for designing the new Ariane 6 rocket and commercializing it. In addition to funding the development, ESA will guarantee five government launches per year while industry will responsible for finding six more launches.

The goal of the launch arrangement is to end the subsidies that European governments currently pay to Arianespace that allow the company to avoid annual financial losses.

Ministers meeting in Luxembourg agreed to spend nearly 8.2 billion euros ($10.15 billion) on rocket development over 10 years. The work will include Ariane 6, Vega-C and continued support of the existing Ariane 5 and Vega launchers.

A new joint venture formed by Airbus Defence and Space and rocket motor builder Safran will lead the rocket development effort. Dordain said Ariane 6 and the enhanced Vega-C will share the “same DNA” in that they will have elements in common.

Vega-C is scheduled for its inaugural flight in 2018. The first Ariane 6 launch is scheduled for 2020.

Minsters agreed to spend 800 million euros ($990.5 million) to support the International Space Station (ISS) through 2017. They deferred a decision to extend ISS operations beyond 2020 until the next ministerial meeting in 2016.

Approximately 200 million euros ($248 million) of the ISS budget will fund the development of a service module for NASA’s Orion deep space vehicle in time for a flight test in 2017 or 2018.

ESA had asked for 820 million euros ($1 billion) to cover ISS operations and the service module development. The 20 million euros ($24.7 million) will be taken out of ISS operations.

Dordain called the shortfall a “manageable” issue that would not have a major impact on ISS operations.

Minsters also secured funding for the 2018 ExoMars mission. The first part of ExoMars is set to launch to the Red Planet in 2016.

  • Tonya

    There are some interesting remarks in the press release that confirm strong interest in cooperation on a Mars Sample Return mission, and human missions beyond LEO. The former is something we should expect to turn into a real NASA-ESA mission proposal at long last.

    The language regarding Soyuz is not explicit, but it looks as though it won’t have a future with ESA much beyond 2020.

  • windbourne

    “The goal of the launch arrangement is to end the subsidies that European governments currently pay to Arianespace that allow the company to avoid annual financial losses.”

    Building 6 will NOT solve their issues.
    They desperately need to do a COTS kind of thing.

  • Aerospike

    Apparently you desperately want that to happen, but that doesn’t mean that ESA/Europe desperately need to do that.

    Bureaucracy in Europe is even more cumbersome and slow than it is in the US, expecting a COTS style of competition in the next 3+ years is pretty much wishful thinking. 🙂

  • Tonya

    Well the pace of development would be one of the objections. From its formation over a decade ago, how many years did it take before SpaceX achieved a flight rate of ten or more vehicles per year?

    Would you like a clue as to the answer?

  • Aerospike

    I guess your comment was directed towards @windbourne:disqus ?

  • Tonya

    Yes, but also in part addressing the cumbersome bureaucracy point. ESA can be quite a fast organisation on the ground, even if the head of the beast sometimes gets around to approving projects sometime after they’ve finished.

    There’s absolutely zero chance that a new space industry could fulfill Europe’s launch requirements in the 20’s, so it’s a bit of a red herring to discuss it as an alternative proposition to what is being done.

  • Aerospike

    I can only agree with that statement 🙂

  • Kapitalist

    And COTS is happening! In the US. The Europeans can just import the best and cheapest launch services in the world. Don’t need to cook everything at home. Should instead specialize on becoming the best and cheapest supplier of components to the best and cheapest launch providers in the world. That is the only way industry creates value.

  • windbourne

    SpaceX was a total start-up. As such, not surprising that it took 10 years.
    However, there are multiple companies in Europe that can also fire up, along the lines of OSC and then move towards creating their own parts.

  • windbourne

    The only way that ANY company becomes large and profitable, is they have the entire vertical market and remove all of the middle men that waste money.
    Tesla, SpaceX, and Solar City are following that all the way through.
    For example, a number of items for tesla were made in Europe and Japan. The seats in the Model S came from Europe. Now, with the new Dual, Tesla has pulled those seats in-house and dropped their costs and improved quality a great deal. SpaceX is similar. They are bringing in all elements of their launch vehicles.

  • Jim R

    It won’t work as explained below, they don’t have new space companies that can participate in COTS like programs. For some reason Americans like to start up new space companies, there’re a few in the 80s and 90s, years or decades before COTS or SpaceX existed.

  • Tonya

    That’s not really helping as an argument. Many people have commented that the Arianespace model of buying complete Soyuz launchers was preferable to the OSC model of being an integrator of largely Russian and European components.

  • Matt

    When will SpaceX build its own computer processors/chips or inertial sensor? No, that makes no sense!! Your prefered total vertical approach is very questionable. For example, it makes no sense that a car company as Daimler or Tesla starts to make the steering wheels, or the dampers, or the Diesel injection pumps, the safety belt, ignition plugs (here is a list of thousands components itself.

  • Matt

    No German taxpayer money for French ICMB’s.

  • Matt

    SpaceX can be also regarded as an outgrown of TRW, if you consider the liquid rocket technology transfer (which was in the head of Tom Mueller or elsewhere) to Elon Musk.

  • Geoff T

    I always find the space enthusiast desire for SpaceX to utterly corner the global launch market a bit odd. SpaceX is the golden boy of the industry because it’s challenging the established players and has to push the boat out a long way to better them. If we give SpaceX the entire market on a platter where’s the incentive to continue to innovate and better themselves?

    Sure Ariane 6 isn’t sounding exciting compared to Elon Musk’s wild adventures but where’s the competitive spirit without competition?

  • windbourne

    You do realize that TRW/Northrup actually dropped the lawsuits since they did NOT have a leg to stand on, while SpaceX had a MAJOR lawsuit in the making.

    Basically, that ‘tech transfer’ is in the same category as fisher space pen being developed for NASA.

  • windbourne

    America became dependent on ULA (and their owners). As such, launches in America costs massive dollars.
    Sadly, OSC had an opportunity to become like SpaceX, but they are worthless in that they hold NO IP. All of theirs was from Russia and Europe.
    Atlas has mostly Russian and Europe as well and still is massively overpriced.

    SpaceX is pushing innovation. However, if we drop all others and become dependent on them SOLELY, then we are back in the same boat as Europe, Russia, China, Japan, and America earlier.

    That is why I am hoping that America will do a COTS for 2 SHLVs. No doubt SpaceX would get one, but, we need another one that can actually compete in which the company owns most of the IP and the manufacturing.

  • Kapitalist

    Indeed! When Elon Musk dies on Mars, as he wants to, the SpaceX bureaucrats will take over and join the ULA cartel. These are the short lived happy days of the entrepreneur. Creation requires destruction, have to always allow the new wild brains to try their wings. And they all want to stop that very process which made themselves succeed.

  • windbourne

    Uh no.
    When I was at Boeing, we designed and manufactured our own boards and most of our avionics. It was rock solid and CHEAP.
    Then Stonecipher came and started the GE style gutting of Boeing. This is now followed by McNearny. He sold off our Avionics, along with other groups.
    The 787 was arguably one of the worst aircrafts that Boeing has ever had. It has great Boeing design, BUT, the manufacturing, along with areas esp. the Avionics, are disasters.

    Chevy, Pontiac, Jeep, Ford, Mercury, etc all used to do nearly 100% of their own manufacturing. They even had their own steel mills. As such, those cars back in the 60’s were high quality and much lower costs. America is now down 2 companies. How much ACTUAL manufacturing do they do? Very little. And they have little control over their quality.

    SpaceX, Solar City and Tesla are moving nearly everything in-house. Obviously chips will not be coming to SpaceX anytime soon. BUT, they are building out their own avionics group that design and manufacture boards. Within another 5 years, a lot more, probably 80% to 100%, will be made in-house. And with Solar City now into making their own solar panels that use silicon (which uses similar equipment), within another 10 years, Musk will likely move into chip manufacturing.