The next Council at Ministerial Level (C/M 14) for the European Space Agency (ESA) takes place in Luxembourg on 2 December. The main topics for decision are reflected in three Resolutions:
-- the Resolution on Europe’s access to space, which recognises the strategic and socio-economic value for Europe to maintain an independent, reliable and affordable access to space for institutional and commercial European customers and underlines the new governance principles related to the exploitation of Europe’s next launcher, Ariane 6, and of the evolution of Vega, Vega-C;
-- the Resolution on Europe’s space exploration strategy, addressing ESA’s three destinations (low-Earth orbit (LEO), Moon and Mars) and, for the LEO destination, in particular the International Space Station (ISS) Programme; and, finally,
-- the Resolution on ESA evolution.
Europe’s access to space
Space activities require independent access to space, so the decision to be taken on Europe’s next-generation launcher is of fundamental importance. Ariane 5, with its roots planted in the Ministerial meeting in 1985, is a remarkable European success story: it has now had more than 60 successful launches in a row, it has secured over 50% of the commercial market for launch services and has generated direct economic benefits in Europe exceeding 50 billion euros.
However, the world launch service market is changing rapidly, in both supply and demand.
On the supply side, new non-European launch service providers are now present in the commercial market at highly competitive prices, providing a challenge to the cost model of Ariane 5.
On the demand side, satellites are also changing. The commercial market, consisting mostly of telecommunication satellites, favours the introduction of electric propulsion, which could reverse the decades-long trend of higher and higher tonnages and will require new orbit injection strategies.
At the same time, there is an increasing number of European institutional payloads with the advent in particular of the Galileo and Copernicus constellations, providing a fairly stable market for recurrent launches of medium-sized satellites.
In response to these rapid changes, the ESA Executive and European launcher industry have defined a modular Ariane 6 in two configurations to serve the medium and heavy launch segments as from 2020, and a Vega upgraded launch system (Vega C) to serve the small launch segment. Ariane 6 will profit from the best re-use of Ariane 5 Midterm Evolution results and investments and from the common use of a solid rocket motor (P120C) as both first stage of Vega C and strap-on booster for Ariane 6.
In Luxembourg, Ministers will therefore be asked to take decisions on the development of Ariane 6 and Vega C which, through modularity and flexibility, will be able to satisfy the European institutional market requirements and to compete on the world-wide market.
These development decisions are associated with a new governance of the European launcher sector allocating increased responsibilities to industry and with a decision point by Participating States in 2016 on the continuation of Ariane 6 on the basis of a set of technical and financial criteria, including respective commitments for the exploitation phase.
The budget required from Member States for completion of Ariane 6 and Vega C development programme is 3.8 billion Euro. (end of excerpt)
Publication of Resolutions
Following the conclusion of the Ministerial Meeting, the adopted Resolutions will be made public on ESA’s web site: www.esa.int.