When you think about space exploration, America and Russia might spring to mind – as this is an area that’s traditionally been dominated by these two superpowers. However, the European Commission announced earlier this week that it plans to invest in its own rocket project.
On Tuesday, the Commission announced a €100 million investment in a prototype rocket project. And in addition to this, the EU plans to invest in its space industry in the coming years, with funding possibly reaching €1 trillion in the next few years.
The project – Ariane 6 – is due to launch later this year and has been in the pipeline since 2014. The Ariane programme has been operating since the 1970s under the watch of the European Space Agency (ESA), and currently owns around 50% of the world’s commercial satellites.
The designers involved in the project are hoping that new innovations like 3D printing and laser-treatment of surfaces could bring down production costs in the coming years, and are aiming to reach a launch capacity of 12 per year to increase revenues.
European Commissioner Thierry Breton said the new rocket “is at the core of the objective to guarantee a European autonomous access to space”.
The head of German satellite builder OHB, Marco Fuchs, also said in a recent interview that “Ariane 6 has to be competitive to last. That depends on the number of flights and missions. Fewer than five would make it tough.”
Last year, the ESA increased the budget to push this project forward. Space enthusiasts hope that funding will continue to increase in the coming years; however, it’s still unclear how much funding it can expect from the EU as this is yet to be negotiated and announced.
But, it’s believed that the returns on the project could be huge. Despite being a crowded market, the space economy is currently worth over €350m and this could increase by as much as €1 trillion by 2040 if predictions are correct.
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