Europe eyes Musk’s SpaceX to replace Russian rockets

PARIS: European Space Agency (ESA) has begun preliminary technical discussions with Elon Musk’s SpaceX that could lead to temporary use of its launchers after the Ukraine conflict blocked Western access to RussiaSoyuz’s rocket.
America’s private competitor to Europe’s Arianespace has emerged as an important player to bridge the gap temporarily alongside Japan and India, but the final decisions depend on the timetable. unresolved for Europe’s delayed Ariane 6 rocket.
“I would say that there are two and a half options that we are discussing. One is that SpaceX is clear. Another option could be Japan,” ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher told Reuters.
“Japan is waiting for the first flight of their next-generation rocket. Another option could be India,” he added in an interview.
“I would say that SpaceX is the more active of them and definitely one of the backup launches that we’re looking at.”
Aschbacher said negotiations were still at an exploratory stage and any contingencies would be temporary.
“We of course need to make sure they fit. It’s not like jumping on a bus,” he said. For example, the interface between the satellite and the launch pad should be suitable and the payload should not be affected by unfamiliar types of launch vibrations.
“We’re looking into this technical compatibility but we haven’t requested a commercial offer. We just want to make sure it’s an option to make a decision about asking for a proposal.” trade deal for sure,” Aschbacher said.
SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.
The political fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a boon for SpaceX Eagle 9, caused other customers to cut ties with Moscow’s increasingly isolated space sector.
Satellite internet company OneWeb, a competitor to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet venture, has booked at least one Falcon 9 launch in March. It has also booked a launch in India.
On Monday, Northrop Grumman booked three Falcon 9 missions to take the ferry NASA goods arrive International Space Station While they were designing a new version of the Antares missile, the Russian-made engine was withdrawn by Moscow in response to sanctions.
So far, Europe has depended on Italy’s Vega for light payloads, Russia’s Soyuz for medium and Ariane 5 for heavy duty. Its next-generation Vega C debuted last month, and the new Ariane 6 has been delayed until next year.
Aschbacher said a more precise Ariane 6 schedule will be clearer in October. Only then will ESA finalize a contingency plan that will be presented to the ministers of the agency’s 22 countries in November.
“But yes, the probability of backup launches is high,” he said. “Order of magnitude is certainly a handful of good launches for which we need interim solutions.”
Aschbacher said the Ukraine conflict demonstrated that Europe’s decades-long strategy of cooperation with Russia in the field of gas supplies and other areas including space is no longer working.
“This is a wake-up call, that we’ve become too dependent on Russia. And this wake-up call, we have to hope that decision makers realize it, like I do, that we have to really strengthen Europe’s capabilities and independence.”
However, he rejected the prospect that Russia would fulfill its pledge to withdraw from the International Space Station (ISS).
Newly appointed head of Russia’s space Yuri Borisov said in a teleconference with the President Vladimir Putin last month that Russia would withdraw from the ISS “after 2024”.
But Borisov later clarified that Russia’s plans had not changed, and Western officials said the Russian space agency had not announced any new withdrawal plans.
“The fact that in terms of operations, work on the space station is underway, I would say almost nominally,” Aschbacher told Reuters. “We depend on each other, like it or not, but we have very little choice.”

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