While the agreement to drop Ariane 5 ME in favour of Ariane 6 stole the headlines, the ministerial meeting of the European Space Agency showed some more subtle changes in the national funding strategies as well. Having avoided the huge development costs of the project, the government of the United Kingdom (UK) now sees the value in investing in the International Space Station. The UK Space Agency has increased its investment in the International Space Station. For only only €40 million it now has 4.6% of Europe’s portion of the project which should guarantee for British Astronaut, Major Tim Peake’s flight to the station, and to allow some of its research cubesats to be launched from it.
Realising that its solid rocket technology will now be used on Ariane 6’s boosters, Germany is taking a 7% investment in Italy’s Vega launch vehicle with the OHB subsidiary, MT Aerospace of Augsburg, to operate a second production line for the P120 engine. The UK is staying out of the Ariane 6 programme, as it champions its reusable technology at Reaction Engines Limited instead.
The UK’s interest in communications satellite technology continues with its 90% funding of the ESA Anysat programme which has led to the Eutelsat Quantum spacecraft using a small GEO satellite bus built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited.
Peter B De Selding’s article on Space News gives an excellent more detailed round up of the results of the ministerial meeting of the European Space Agency.