The European Union has made a deal with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch its satellites into outer space. In an act of desperation due to setbacks in developing new satellite launching equipment and the EU’s loss of its lead in the field, the EU will pay Musk’s company €180 million for two launches next year.
Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton confirmed the deal, stating that the EU accepted a proposal from the European Space Agency (ESA) to use SpaceX because the Ariane 6 launcher will not be available in time. The ministers of Italy, France, and Germany, along with the ESA, met in Seville to discuss the lack of European options for satellite launches.
The ESA, founded in 1975, is responsible for Europe’s space programs. It operates missions through intergovernmental cooperation among 22 countries, including the UK. One of its key projects is Galileo, Europe’s Global Navigation Satellite System, which provides military and political satellite mapping and communications for European countries and the EU.
However, Europe’s position in space rocket launches has been overtaken by private companies like SpaceX. The decline began in 2014 when the French company Arianespace decided not to pursue reusable technology for its launch vehicle, the Ariane 6. The decision has proven costly, as reusable technology has not only been successful but also more cost-effective.
The Ariane 6 launcher has also faced delays in development and production since 2020, posing risks to European satellite capabilities. As a result, the EU has turned to SpaceX and is in negotiations with the US for a security agreement to ensure access to satellites and technology retrieval.
While SpaceX is the chosen partner for now, the EU has considered other American private space companies such as the United Launch Alliance. However, the goal is to rebuild the European space sector and regain competitiveness, reducing reliance on external partners.
The meeting in Seville was a step towards achieving this objective, with hopes of avoiding further dependence on Elon Musk’s companies in the future.