France, Germany and Italy agree to support European launch vehicles

(ORDO NEWS) — France, Germany and Italy, the three member states of the ESA, said on Tuesday they were ready to guarantee the future of the Ariane 6 and Vega-C next-generation rocket launch systems.

After ESA was forced to turn to the US firm SpaceX to launch two science missions, the countries confirmed that preference would be given to European rockets.

Representatives from ESA’s 22 member states are meeting in Paris on Tuesday and Wednesday to determine the agency’s funding for the next three years, with a €3.2 billion plan for European space launchers on the agenda.

“The public funding required to balance the institutional and commercial operation of Ariane 6 and Vega-C will be reviewed taking into account the evolution of market prices, institutional prices, economic conditions,” the ministers of France, Germany and Italy said in a joint statement.

ESA has had to work hard to find a way to send its missions into space after Russia canceled European Soyuz launches in response to European sanctions.

The agency has also been hit by delays in the launch of the Ariane 6 rocket, whose first flight was originally scheduled for 2020 but has now been pushed back to late 2023.

For the Ariane 6 and the smaller Vega-C, the ministers said, “the allocation of funding will be commensurate with the commercial risks taken” to ensure their long-term competitiveness.

The three countries have also proposed allowing ESA to use European-made micro-start systems currently being developed by Germany and France.

A final decision on how to proceed will be agreed by December 2023, the statement said.

ESA is asking for 18.5 billion euros in funding for space programs over the next three years, more than 25 percent more than the previous amount.

ESA Director-General Josef Aschbacher told ministers that their countries would reap enormous economic benefits from funding ESA’s space programs. According to him, the space industry is now worth about 340 billion euros, and by 2040 it will reach about one trillion euros.

The budget decision, expected to be announced on Wednesday, comes amid growing competition from other countries and private companies like SpaceX.

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