Industry Group Urges ESA to Adopt Open Procurement for Launches

Ariane 5 launches on June 22, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)

On the eve of ESA’s Ministerial meeting, a group of 21 European companies issued a call on Monday for open competition in the procurement of the launches — a move that could break a monopoly held by Arianespace.

“In order to strengthen the fragile access to space capability in Europe, we request that launches for all institutional missions are procured in an open competition as of immediately, without restrictions of any kind,” the joint industry statement said. “Having additional access to space that is affordable, flexible, and globally competitive will also impact the satellite industry and related technology companies, which can innovate and grow faster. It will be a positive for the overall space budget, leaving further available funding for new additional missions.

“Additionally, ESA spending should prioritize programs that incentive the space economy and foster innovation such as service contracts, marketplace or the development of breakthrough technologies. Now is the time to act,” the document added.

The statement was signed by a group of small companies that are developing launch vehicles, building satellites and supplying a range of space services. Signatories included Aerospacelab, Coactum, DCUBED, D-Orbit, EXO Launch, HyImpulse, Isar Aerospace, ISISPACE, Latitude, Leaf Space, NIFRO, Open Cosmos, Pangea Aerospace, RDI Network, Rocket Factory Augsburg, Sateliot, Swedish Space Corporation, The Exploration Company, UARX Space, U-Space and Zero to Infinity.

Representatives of ESA member nations will meet for a Ministerial Council meeting in Paris on Tuesday and Wednesday to decide on the space agency’s programs, budget and policies.

Arianespace operates the Ariane 5 and Vega-C boosters. The company is developing the Ariane 6 rocket to replace Ariane 5 with ESA funding. A number of startup companies are developing small satellite rockets, but none has succeeded in launching anything into orbit.