The European Space Agency is gearing up for a space summit this fall to provide support for a new launch strategy as well as a new manned spaceflight initiative. In an April 17 interview, Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s managing director, said the agency is working on plans to present it to ESA and European Union member states at the second European Space Summit, scheduled for November in Seville, Spain.
ESA will seek political support for future manned spaceflight programs, but not funding, as recommended by a high-level advisory panel in a report released March 23. This Space Revolution report urges Europe to launch an ambitious effort. to develop their own manned spaceflight capabilities, including launching astronauts into low Earth orbit and even to the moon.
“This is a truly political summit on the way forward for Europe and what ESA needs to do to ensure that,” Aschbacher said. Said. “I await a political decision on Europe’s approach to human and robotic spaceflight.”
According to him, in preparation for the summit, ESA is working on “use cases” for European manned spaceflight infrastructure in orbit and on the Moon. This will lead to application scenarios for these use cases, including high-end architectures and cost estimates.
“We will develop scenarios for decision makers and they will tell us what they want us to do and how we move forward based on those scenarios,” he said.
This policy decision will not immediately secure ESA funding for these scenarios, but will guide planning ahead of the next ESA Ministerial Council meeting in late 2025, when member states will commit to funding specific programs, including potential manned spaceflight initiatives.
He said “a lot of work needs to be done” before the Cabinet meets in 2025 or CM25. ESA has few funds to support this planning. “With a moderate investment, you can be well prepared. The CM25 will be an important milestone.”
Aschbacher said he was pleasantly surprised by the Revolution Field report. The advisory group consisted almost entirely of people with no experience in the space industry, from a former NATO Secretary General to an artist. “They painted a really clear picture of where Europe is and what it needs to do in manned spaceflight,” he said. “I was very surprised that the report put this in such clear and harsh language – I was very positively surprised.”
“Europe cannot stay away from this,” he said of manned spaceflight. “On the contrary: Europe needs to step up its efforts and be very bold in its engagement.”
The space summit will cover topics beyond human spaceflight, such as the role of space in addressing climate change. It also addresses the European launch strategy that goes beyond the development of the Ariane 6 and Vega C vehicles.
“It’s really a bigger picture of how Europe wants to establish itself in access to space,” he said. This includes support for “micro-launchers” or small launch vehicles developed by several European companies, as well as a long-term assessment of access to space.
“It is clear that the current situation requires a deeper understanding of the rocket ship industry in Europe,” he said, in particular, how to ensure Europe’s guaranteed access to space.
Controversy arises between delays in the introduction of the Ariane 6 and attempts to return the Vega C to service after a failed launch in December. He said work is underway to get the Vega C up and running again by the end of the year, after making changes such as the new nozzle insert that caused the malfunction in December.
Aschbacher declined to provide an estimated date for the first launch of Ariane 6, which ESA said won’t be until the fourth quarter of 2023 after significant development delays last fall. Work continues in various areas, including the hot fire test scheduled for early July.
He said he’s working with industry partners on the Ariane 6 project to provide a series of regular updates to the public on the progress of this initial launch. During the hotfire test in July, Ariane 6’s partners should know enough “so we can predict the date of the first flight much better,” he said.
Source: Port Altele
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