ESA wants more money. Let’s instead develop a space industry and partnerships like in the USA. What if we were inspired by the American capitalist model, rather than expecting everything from the state?

Public expenditure for space, a gesture without possibility of result

In an article dated September 13, La Tribune reports that the director of the ESA (European Space Agency), Joseph Aschbacher, wants to obtain from member states1 a 30% increase in its budget, which would thus go from 14.38 to 18.7 Billions of Euro’s.

This is a lot, but it highlights three weaknesses of the Agency:

  • It works in a “public” spirit and must beg each year from the Member States for contributions for risks that it assumes alone, without private companies, its suppliers.
  • She is running (with the slowness of a turtle!) after the application of innovations that she has let others (in the United States) dare to try and sometimes succeed.
  • In its environment, the industrial environment, while competent, is not likely to bring about change, or does not have the means to do so.
  • A different American situation

    In the United States, the evolution has been different and the differences with Europe are glaring today. Early on, with the Launch Purchase Act of 1998, NASA was required by law to use private launch vehicles whenever possible. This favored the rise of private companies such as SpaceX, subject to competition, encouraged to develop independently of the State, even if they remained paid by it. Very quickly these companies which had their own money, took initiatives, tried innovations. Some have been successful, others less so.

    This encouragement of freedom and prosperity has sparked what is called New Space, a whole world of companies, of all sizes, from Bigelow (inflatable habitats) to SpaceX (Elon Musk) or Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos ), or even Stemrad (Israeli-American company that designed an anti-radiation vest), who have their own project, who try to realize it and ask nothing of anyone (other than private investors who want to support them) . From time to time they receive a contract from NASA if the latter is interested. It is quite different from the companies, both in the United States but especially in Europe, which only work on a space project on order (Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Arianespace, for example). In other words, SpaceX did not wait for NASA to launch into reusable technology to try it.

    In Europe, the companies working for space are very wise and are waiting for orders (even if they maintain research at a high level, in anticipation of what could come). As, moreover, the ESA, like any administration, holds back with four irons before the whimsical or the non-conforming to the line we have always followed, mutations are rare and slow, paradigm shifts impossible. For a long time ESA, like NASA, made fun of reusability and now ESA is running behind. For NASA it’s a little different because it finds itself in a New Space environment which allows it to benefit from the innovations of others (which has not prevented it from going astray and then sinking into the impasse Artemis, this huge expensive and unusable thing).

    ESA now has a reusable Prometheus engine program and a reusable first-stage Themis program, but it’s a bit late because, due to its mastery of reusable technology, of which it is the inventor, SpaceX grabs all the launches and ESA does not can count only on those that are imposed on its customers for political reasons (basically why choose a launch at 200 million when you can do one at 100 million2?).

    As a result, the ESA falls back on second best. The new Vega launcher can only launch small charges. It takes some but it’s playing in the kindergarten yard. Its medium launcher, Ariane 6 is an improvement on the Ariane 5 but without major innovation and in particular without this possibility of reuse. It will not fly until 2023 and will already be out of date.

    On the side of manned flights, the disdain for this type of mission, from what can be called the scientific establishment, has led to a considerable Europe, unthinkable in the American New Space environment which dreams of astronauts on Mars or the Moon, or space tourism. It is the same haughty and arrogant spirit which considers private money as impure as long as it has not been transmuted by a tax system and which cannot envisage partnership with the bosses of the private sector who must remain in command.

    That’s not how you progress. This is not the way to maximize the fruits of the cultivation of human intelligence. A single entity, the administration, populated by civil servants with a career to climb, who do not have an entrepreneurial spirit, that is to say the taste for risk by necessity to be better than the competition, and who must only please hierarchical or political superiors who have already succeeded, cannot risk themselves in an adventure which could be harmful to their administration (or to the politicians who control and sanction them) and therefore to themselves.

    European space is severely handicapped by this context, especially since there are no major entrepreneurs in Europe like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos to push, jostle, incite the ESA. We can only count on the chance of the arrival at the top of the pyramid of civil servants who are a little more courageous than the others or quite simply more lucid about the catastrophic situation in which their administration (in this case the ESA) finds itself, like Joseph Aschbacher, to try to straighten the bar or get out of the rut.

    But in any case, without private capitalism and without envy on the part of the big European capitalists (Bernard Arnault or François Pineault are not interested in space), the sky will remain the playground of the Americans. There’s no point in spending more money if it’s to throw it off a tower in the desert.

  • The ESA, European Space Agency is financed by its 22 Member States (and some cooperating States), the main contributor being Germany 23% then France 18% and Italy 16%. Over time Germany has progressed by distancing France a lot, but the latter continues to dominate the launches part with Arianespace although this preponderance is also decreasing due to competition from SpaceX
  • The figures vary a little according to the customers and the launches but that gives an idea.
  • Europe should send an astronaut to the Moon this decade, ESA hopes

    he director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), Josef Aschbacher, remains committed to seeing a European astronaut on the Moon within the next decade, he told German news agency DPA.

    The economic potential of Earth’s natural satellite will only become clear over the next decade, he predicted: “At the moment, we are only at the beginning of the sustainable use of Moon for our projects“.

    While admitting that the extent of its economic potential remains unclear, Josef Aschbacher said he was “personally convinced that it will be worth it“.

    A matter of budget

    The budget has played a role, he added, as the Paris-based agency prepares for November’s Ministerial Council, where member states set their budget and roadmap for the three years to come. come.

    The past year has not been easy for ESA, since Ariane 6 has still not taken off and the European service module of the Artemis mission is still not heading for the Moon.

    But Josef Aschbacher also highlighted successes, including the first flight of the Vega-C rocket and the first space summit where the EU and ESA took decisions together.

    Other uncertainties have emerged this year, noted the head of the European Agency, in particular the announcement by Russia of its intention to withdraw from the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024, thus ending an agreement under which the ISS is jointly managed by the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and ESA.

    ESA wants to send a European astronaut to the Moon this decade

    European Space Agency (ESA) Director General Josef Aschbacher remains committed to seeing a European astronaut on the Moon within the next decade, he told German news agency DPA.

    ESA between difficulties and successes

    The economic potential of Earth’s natural satellite will only become clear over the next decade, he predicted: “At the moment, we are only at the beginning of the sustainable use of Moon for our projects“. While admitting that the extent of its economic potential remains unclear, Mr Aschbacher said he was “personally convinced that it will be worth it”.

    The budget has played a role, he added, as the Paris-based agency prepares for November’s Ministerial Council, where member states set their budget and roadmap for the three years to come. come. The past year has not been easy for ESA, since Ariane 6 has still not taken off and the European service module of the Artemis mission is still not heading for the Moon.