European ministers have given the green light to the development of a lower-cost Ariane 6 space rocket.
The new rocket will replace the current Ariane 5 from its first launch in 2020 and will account for about half of an 8 billion euro European Space Agency budget approved by the science ministers at their meeting in Luxembourg.
Gaele Winters from the European Space Agencyexplained that competition in hotting up in the commercial world of space launchers.
“We have a very strong position on that market but the position is under threat. If we look at the future, you look at the type of satellites that will be launched, if you look at more competitors into the market, the very sharp pricing policy of these competitors, we have to do something that protects the European position and at the same time guarantees access to space that we want.”
The decision to pool resources in a single simplified version resolves a dispute between France which wanted a new rocket and Germany which had favoured an up grade.
Technology from the abandoned upgrade project will be in corporated into Ariane 6 and Germany has secured extra cash for the Euro-Russian mission to Mars.
Reporting for euronews from Luxembourg, Jeremy Wilks said:
“Maybe you could call it the Rosetta effect. The ministers who came here today to this meeting did so with the sense of optimism and positivity. They have found compromise, the have found extra money and the found agreement on those important questions such as Ariane 6 and ExoMars.”