In a blog post published on Sunday, ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner put down in writing what many people have been thinking for quite a while: that whatever their merits, Europe’s new Ariane 6 and Vega C boosters will not help the continent keep pace with an increasingly competitive launch market.
ESA ministers decided in 2014 to develop a new launcher family comprising Ariane 6 and Vega C, based on the existing Ariane 5 and Vega. The promise to secure autonomous access to space and reduce the price by a factor of 2 proved sufficiently compelling to secure ESA member states’ agreement to finance the development. At that time, I succeeded in placing environmental concerns and the possible development of reusability among the high-level requirements:
Maintain and ensure European launcher competence with a long-term perspective, including possibility of reusability/fly-back.
Ensure possibility to deorbit upper stage directly
Due to time and cost pressure, however, these aspects did not make it onto the agenda for Ariane 6 and Vega C. Yet in the meantime, the world has moved on and today’s situation requires that we re-assess the situation and identify the possible consequences.
In many discussions on the political level, the strategic goal of securing European autonomous access to space has not changed, however there is a growing sense that pressure from global competition is something that needs to be addressed. With Vega C, Ariane 62 and Ariane 64 approaching completion, it seems logical to complete these launchers in order to at least take that major step towards competitiveness.
At the same time, it is essential that we now discuss future solutions, including disruptive ideas. Simply following the kind of approaches seen so far would be expensive and ultimately will fail to convince. Totally new ideas are needed and Europe must now prove it still possesses that traditional strength to surpass itself and break out beyond existing borders.
In this sense, the process of discussing and deciding on a launcher system that eschews traditional solutions can send a powerful signal out into other areas as well. I therefore intend to invite innovative, really interested European players to come together to define possible ways forward.
RSC Energia has launched the development of a new human spacecraft named Federatsiya (Federation) that will replace the 40-year-old Soyuz vehicles and enable Russia to send cosmonauts to the moon, Tassreports.
Federation will be capable of carrying crews of four into Earth orbit and deep space on missions of up to 30 days. The spacecraft could stay in space up to a year if docked with a space station, which is double the duration of the Soyuz spacecraft.
The new spacecraft could be a key element in what appears to be an emerging plan to place a space station in lunar orbit. NASA is exploring such a facility to test technologies required for sending astronauts to Mars.
There’s been a lot of speculation since the election on what president-elect Donald Trump will do with the nation’s civilian and military space programs.
Two Trump advisors laid out some goals before the election: more commercial partnerships, boosting defense spending, increasing hypersonics and slashing NASA Earth science. However, most details remain unclear.
A key question is whether Trump really cares about space all that much. That’s a little hard to discern given his comments during the campaign.
When first questioned on the subject, he expressed a preference for fixing potholes in America’s crumbling streets over sending people to Mars. Trump has promised a large infrastructure repair program.
During a visit to Florida, he attacked the Obama Administration for allegedly wrecking NASA and the space program. During another appearance in the Sunshine State about a week later, Trump praised the space agency for how well it was performing.
So, NASA is either doing great, a disaster that needs to be made great again, or an obstacle to pothole repair. Assuming Trump actually cares, and he’s willing to spend some money on making NASA great again, what might he do? What major decisions does he face? (more…)
PARIS (ESA PR) — On 14 March 2016, the Roscosmos State Corporation and the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the jointly-developed ExoMars 2016 interplanetary mission, comprising the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli lander, on a Proton rocket from Baikonur, thus marking the first phase in the European-Russian ExoMars cooperation programme. The success achieved by Russian and European experts involved in ExoMars 2016 is the result of long and fruitful cooperation. The ExoMars 2016 spacecraft are due to arrive at Mars in October 2016.
PARIS, 21 November 2015 (ESA PR) — At an extraordinary meeting of the ESA Council held in Paris in restricted session on 21 November 2015, Council approved the Director General’s proposal for the future senior management team of ESA set out below. It is planned that the new senior management team will take up duty in early 2016.
as Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications (D/TIA), Ms Magali Vaissiere
as Director of Galileo Programme and Navigation-Related Activities (D/NAV), Mr Paul Verhoef
Science and Exploration
as Director of Science (D/SCI), Mr Alvaro Giménez Cañete
as Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration Programmes (D/HRE), Mr David Parker
Space Technology and Operations
– as Director of Technical and Quality Management (D/TEC), Mr Franco Ongaro
– as Director of Operations (D/OPS), Mr Rolf Densing
as Director of Internal Services: Human Resources, Facility Management, Finance and Controlling, Information Technology (D/HIF), Mr Jean Max Puech
as Director of Industry, Procurement and Legal Services (D/IPL), Mr Eric Morel de Westgaver
PARIS (ESA PR) — As of today, 1 July 2015, ESA has a new Director General: Johann-Dietrich Woerner, who has taken up duty at ESA Headquarters in Paris, France.
“I am in the favourable position to nurture the seeds of Jean-Jacques Dordain’s work,” said Mr Woerner during a recent media briefing at the Paris Air Show, expressing his thanks to the parting Director General.
Mr Woerner called for the continuation of ESA’s ongoing programmes, projects and missions in cooperation with Member States, as well as preparing for ESA’s future, among the many important tasks he has to fulfil.
PARIS (ESA/DLR PR) — Today, the Council of the European Space Agency announced the appointment of Johann-Dietrich Woerner as the next Director General of ESA, for a period of four years starting on 1 July 2015.
He will succeed Jean-Jacques Dordain, whose term of office ends on 30 June 2015.
Mr Woerner is currently Chairman of the Executive Board of DLR, the German Aerospace Center. Born in Kassel in 1954, Woerner has been Chairman of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) since 1 March 2007.
He studied civil engineering at the Technische Universität Berlin and the Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, from where he graduated in 1985. In 1982, as part of his studies, he spent two years in Japan, investigating earthquake safety. Until 1990 Wörner worked for the consulting civil engineers König und Heunisch. In 1990 he returned to Darmstadt University, where he was appointed to a professorship in Civil Engineering and took over as Head of the Testing and Research Institute. Before being elected President of the Technische Universität Darmstadt in 1995, he held the position of Dean of the Civil Engineering Faculty.