July 27, 2012
ESA Looking Into New Future Of European Launch Services
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The European Space Agency (ESA) is investigating the possibility of a new launch system to make Europe fully self-sufficient over the long haul.ESA said it is investigating the idea behind the New European Launch Services (NELS) to offer up launch services to both governmental and private European customers.
The space agency said it prefers to ensure the continuation of industrial activities in production and to start developments that will prepare it for the next generation of launch vehicles.
As the trend towards using larger geostationary satellites grows, and international competition continues to arise, ESA said that more public money will be required to fund and preserve Europe's access to space with the current family of launchers.
ESA fears that its current family of launchers, including Arian 5, Vega and Soyuz from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, could become less sustainable economically later down the road.
ESA recently issued an Invitation to Tender for an industrial feasibility study for NELS. This study will be 12-months long, and will define the future European launch service sector.
The space agency said that the study will look at how to respond to market needs not only in terms of missions, performance and payload accommodation, but also availability, reliability, cost and the time it would take to get these launch services on the market.
"In turn, to ensure the NELS blueprint is truly responsive to the needs of European space users, a detailed list of requirements was drawn up by ESA in close consultation with European governments and telecommunications satellite operators — the main private customers for launch services," ESA said.
Contracts for the study were awarded to two teams, the first of which is led by MT Aerospace in Germany and includes several European countries. The second team is being led by Astrium ST in France, and also includes several European companies.
The study is set to begin at the start of July, with their preliminary outcomes being ready to be presented by the end of September.
These outcomes will provide "useful inputs to ESA Member States as they prepare to make decisions on future launcher development activities at November´s ESA Council at Ministerial level," ESA said.