It is rocket science: EU to speed up space ambitions, Breton says
The European Union will plow more money into rocket launches, satellite communication and space exploration to preserve its often unsung successes in space, its space chief said on Sunday.
Over the past decades, Europe has sought to build independent access to space from U.S. and Russian pioneers to help its industry, with successes such as Ariane rockets or GPS-rival satnav Galileo.
"Space is one of Europe's strong points, and we're giving ourselves the means to speed up," European Commissioner Thierry Breton, whose brief included the space sector, told Reuters in an interview.
Breton, the former French head of IT company Atos, said that for the first time, the EU budget will be used to support new technology to launch rockets, including reusable ones.
The EU will for the first time sign a 1-billion-euro agreement with Arianespace with guaranteed orders to give it more visibility, in exchange for more innovation.
"SpaceX has redefined the standards for launchers, so Ariane 6 is a necessary step, but not the ultimate aim: we must start thinking now about Ariane 7," Breton said.
Breton, who hopes the European Commission will provide 16 billion euros for space in its next budget, said he would propose a 1-billion-euro European Space Fund to boost startups. He also wants to launch a competition to give free access to satellites and launchers to startups, to spur innovation.
(Cover image: The Ariane-5 ECA launcher, carrying Thai and Mexican telecommunications satellites, lifts off from the European spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana, May 27, 2006. /Reuters)