A very interesting panel discussion was had at the Space Tech Expo Europe regarding European launch capability on November 14. The major players and some which are not so well-known discussed launching from Europe with European rockets. As many topics were covered during the talk, the major takeaway for this analyst was that the desire is there for European launch infrastructure.
Ariane 6, which is soon coming online, has suffered some delays but is currently on track for an inaugural 2024 launch. Going deeper, Mr. Karl-Heinz Servos the COO of Arianegroup spoke of what was necessary for Ariane 6’s success moving forward. With a launch rate of 10-11 launches per year, production would have to be a “flow” model instead of previous methods of production. Another term for flow production is mass production. Ariane 6 will be built in a fashion more akin to the automotive industry, rather than in a bespoke manner.
Mr. Servos went on to say that Ariane 6 will take six months to build and 29 days to ship to Kourou, French Guiana for launch. This is a European launch vehicle but launching from outside of Europe. Stefan Tweraser, the CEO of Rocket Factory Augsburg, was also on the panel discussing a little bit about their upcoming ONE rocket.
Although Mr. Tweraser did not speak much about his company’s rocket itself, he did speak about using subcontractors that don’t traditionally work in the Space industry. He highlighted an unnamed company that works in the automotive industry and makes connectors. Although these connectors were not suitable for rocketry, fixes were made and now this company is in the Space game.
Ms. Sabine Von Der Recke, board member of OHB, highlighted some of the future needs of Europe. Multiple launch pads and various locations will be needed to launch the various inclinations that European payloads will utilize. She compared launch sites to airports; some will be more used than others. Space debris mitigation measures will also be needed as Space is growing more and more crowded.
Everyone agreed competition in the launch sector is not only a good thing but is welcome. Much like the automotive industry has many players, Europe needs the same for rockets. Shipping satellites across the globe for launch does not make sense, homegrown launch capability is key. This is a very similar conversation that was had last year at this same show; however, this year the desire to launch from Europe sounded more like a necessity. Various rockets coming to market will make this a reality.