ESA Becoming More Independent in Propulsion Technologies to Avoid U.S. ITAR Restrictions

Space News has more evidence of the damage that restrictive export laws are having on U.S. high technology companies:

The European Space Agency (ESA) is promoting the creation of European expertise in certain propulsion technologies to avoid technology-transfer roadblocks associated with U.S. components even if the U.S. hardware is substantially less expensive, ESA officials said.

These officials said that they have been forced into the policy by the fact that for its satellite programs, ESA requires that it be able to understand the source of a problem that crops up either in ground testing or in orbit.

U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) policy makes such a post-failure review impossible, they said.

“If the U.S. has already developed something and can sell it to us for half of what it would cost us to build it, why should we develop it? We can use our resources elsewhere,” said Jose Gonzalez del Amo of ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, Netherlands. “The problem is that if a component doesn’t work, we need to understand what happened, and ITAR prevents this.”

As a result, ESA is financing development of satellite regulators, latch and flow-control valves and other components instead of continuing to rely on U.S. goods, Gonzalez del Amo said here May 4 during the Space Propulsion 2010 conference organized by the French Aeronautics and Astronautics Association.

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