The Best Laid Plans: Europe’s Ambitious Launch Year Goes Awry Due to International Tensions, Schedule Delays

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December 2021 on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Christmas Day 2021, an European Ariane 5 rocket roared off its launch pad in French Guiana with the most expensive payload the booster had ever carried, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The launcher performed perfectly, sending the most powerful space telescope on a journey to its final destination 1.5 million km (900 million miles) from Earth. The launch was so accurate that Webb should have sufficient propellant to perform science operations for much longer than its planned 10-year lifetime.

There was a collective sigh of relief among the European, American and Canadian scientists and engineers involved in the long-delayed program. It was a superb Christmas gift to a world suffering through the second year of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

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ArianeGroup Selected for Two European Commission Calls for Projects to Speed Up the Development of Europe’s First Reusable and Eco-friendly Launchers

ArianeGroup has been selected by the European Commission to run two major projects in its Horizon Europe research framework program.

  • The SALTO project will facilitate the first flight tests of the Themis reusable stage demonstrator in Kiruna, Sweden.
  • The ENLIGHTEN project will speed up the development and introduction of reusable engine technologies.
  • Each project is built on the joint expertise of ArianeGroup, industry, research institutes and start-ups, to accelerate Europe’s transition to increasingly innovative, competitive and eco-friendly access to space.

ISSY-LES-MOULINEAUX, France (ArianeGroup PR) — Following the call for projects issued by the European Commission as part of its Horizon Europe program designed to encourage and accelerate innovation, ArianeGroup has been given responsibility for two particularly ambitious projects to speed up the development of reusable, ecofriendly European launchers. ArianeGroup will be heading the SALTO and ENLIGHTEN projects, bringing together numerous academic and industrial partners, including innovative start-ups.

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European Investment Fund & CNES Sign Agreement to Support Small & Medium Enterprises in Space Sector

KOUROU, French Guiana (CNES PR) — On Wednesday June 22, 2022, Jean-Marc Astorg, Director of Strategy at CNES, and Alain Godard, Managing Director of the European Investment Fund (EIF) signed a partnership agreement at the Guiana Space Center to support SMEs and companies intermediate sizes in the space sector. This in the presence of Kris Peeters, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), responsible for the space and defense sector for the institution, and Marie-Anne Clair Director of the Guiana Space Center.

At the beginning of the year, the EIF and the ESA formalized a similar agreement. The agreement comes five months after the launch by Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, of the CASSINI system supported by the European Union and whose implementation has been entrusted to the EIF. The CASSINI initiative, which aims to mobilize more than one billion euros, is intended to support the development and growth of start-ups in the space sector in order to stimulate private investment in this growing economic sector.

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Astronauts and Experts to Celebrate Asteroid Day LIVE on Thursday, June 30

This mosaic of Bennu was created using observations made by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft that was in close proximity to the asteroid for over two years. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

LUXEMBOURG, 21 June 2021 (Asteroid Foundation PR) – The Asteroid Foundation’s annual Asteroid Day LIVE programme returns in person Thursday 30 June 2022 at 11:00 CET [5 a.m. EDT/09:00 UTC]. After two years as a digital event, astronauts, experts and science communicators from across the world will again converge on Luxembourg to discuss the importance of asteroid research, missions, and advances in space-based technologies. The four-hour-long programme will vividly bring the solar system’s smallest worlds to life for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Asteroid Day LIVE 2022 will be built around seven panel discussions that will tell the full story of asteroids; from the formation of the Solar System, 4.6 billion years ago, to the scientific work taking place today, and our future prospects as we begin to imagine ways to utilise the resources asteroids contain.

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Thales Alenia Space takes new steps in satellite Navigation programs, EGNOS and Galileo

  • Contract signed with EUSPA to develop the next version of EGNOS
  • New milestone in the Galileo program to improve positioning services for 3.3 billion users

CANNES, France, June 22, 2022 (Thales Alenia Space PR) – Thales Alenia Space, joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has signed a new contract with the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) to develop, qualify and deploy the new European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) version. Thales Alenia Space has also just reached a new milestone in the Galileo program with the integration of a new satellite into Galileo’s Ground Mission Segment (GMS) which will improve positioning service for 3.3 billion users.

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UK Satnav Signal Generated in New Test to Provide Future Resilient, Precise, Safety-Critical Capabilities

  • Team comprising Inmarsat, Goonhilly, GMVNSL demonstrates platform for future sovereign UK Position, Navigation and Timing capability
  • UK not part of Galileo satnav system, cannot use European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) safety of life (SOL) services since leaving European Union

LONDON (Inmarsat PR) — An Inmarsat-led team of companies in the UK, building on national expertise and prior experience within the group, has begun broadcasting a satellite navigation signal as part of a programme to explore the creation of a sovereign national capability in resilient positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) for the aviation and maritime sectors. The signal, being broadcast in coordination with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union Space Programme Agency (EUSPA), is now stable and operational, enabling on-going testing and validation by industry, regulators, and users.

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ICEYE Announces Agreement with European Space Agency to Support Copernicus Emergency Services with Flood Insights

Leveraging the world’s largest synthetic aperture radar constellation, ICEYE will provide ESA with active flood hazard data before, during and after large-scale flood events

HELSINKI (ICEYE PR) — ICEYE, the global leader in satellite driven persistent monitoring and an expert in natural catastrophe solutions, today announced the start of a pilot activity with the European Space Agency (ESA) to support the Copernicus Emergency Management Services (CEMS) team with flood insights. Through the pilot, ICEYE will deliver critical flood impact information showing the extent and depth of flooding at the structure level to ESA and CEMS throughout 2022. The pilot will allow CEMS to evaluate ICEYE’s flood insights and explore potential applications.

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Key Findings From the European State of the Climate Report

Northwest Greenland is featured in this icy image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission. (Credit: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Europe experienced its warmest summer on record in 2021, accompanied by severe floods in western Europe and dry conditions in the Mediterranean. These are just some of the key findings from the Copernicus Climate Change Service’s European State of the Climate report released today. The in-depth report provides key insights and a comprehensive analysis of climate conditions in 2021, with a special focus on Europe and the Arctic.

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ESA Books Ride for Sentinel-1C Satellite on Vega-C After Russian Soyuz Rocket Becomes Unavailable

Vega rocket in flight (Credit: Arianespace)

PARIS (ESA PR) — A contract signed with Arianespace secures the launch for the third Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite. Scheduled to lift off on ESA’s new Vega-C rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana in the first half of 2023, Sentinel-1C will continue the critical task of delivering key radar imagery for a wide range of services, applications and science – all of which benefit society.

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Putin, Justinian and the Revival of Empire

Mosaic of Emperor Justinian I in the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. (Credit: By Petar Milošević – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40035957)

After decades of relative peace, a full-scale war has broken out in Europe with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Angered by the former Soviet republic’s efforts to integrate with Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin has rolled the dice and unleashed hell on his nation’s neighbor.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but there are patterns that echo down through time. Sixteen centuries ago, another European leader launched a similar invasion designed to restore past glories. He succeeded — to a point.

All this has Happened Before

In late June 533, an expeditionary force under the command of Gen. Flavius Balisarius set sail from the Eastern Roman Empire capital of Constantinople. After a voyage of several months along the coasts of Greece and Italy, the force landed at Caputvada on the North Africa coast in early September.

The expeditionary force’s target was the Vandal Kingdom, centered in the former Roman capital of North Africa, Carthage. Emperor Justinian I had dispatched the expedition with two objectives in mind, one short term and limited, the other expansive and long term.

The Vandals had been part of a wave of barbarian tribes that, pushed out of their homelands by marauding Huns, had overrun the Western Roman Empire in the early fifth century. (The empire had split into east and west in 395, with separate capitals at Ravenna and Constantinople.) Vandals and other barbarians had crossed the Rhine, pillaged their way across Gaul (modern day France and Belgium), and seized control of Iberia (present-day Spain and Portugal). For a period, life was good as the invaders soaked up the Mediterranean sun and lives off the tax revenues that used to go to the Western Roman Empire.

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International Sea Level Satellite Takes Over From Predecessor

Meltwater from Greenland glaciers like the one pictured can contribute significantly to sea level rise. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich monitors the height of Earth’s oceans so that researchers can better understand the amount and rate of sea level rise. (Credits: NASA Earth Observatory using Landsat data from USGS)

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, the newest addition to a long line of ocean-monitoring satellites, becomes the reference satellite for sea level measurements.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — On March 22, the newest U.S.-European sea level satellite, named Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, became the official reference satellite for global sea level measurements. This means that sea surface height data collected by other satellites will be compared to the information produced by Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich to ensure their accuracy.

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EUSPA Publishes Earth Observation and GNSS Market Report

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (EUSPA PR) — To help you better appreciate and reap the full benefits of space technology, EUSPA experts compiled the EUSPA EO and GNSS Market Report.  The 216-page long release is the ultimate guide to anyone who seeks to make the EU Space technologies part of their business plan, develop new space downstream applications and see a tangible return on investment.

More than ever society relies on innovative solutions to deal with the big data paradigm, respond to and mitigate climate change, natural and man-made disasters, curb the spread of diseases and strengthen a global supply chain that underpins our daily lives. Earth Observation (EO) and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) data is becoming increasingly important to these innovative solutions through dozens of applications that are emerging or already in use by citizens, businesses, governments, industry, international organizations, NGOs, and researchers around the world. In 2021, GNSS and EO downstream market generated over 200 billion euros revenues and are set to reach almost half a trillion over the next decade.

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Suspension of Soyuz Launches Operated by Arianespace & Starsem

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

Arianespace Press Release

Arianespace is strictly abiding by the sanctions decided by the international community (European Union, United States of America and United Kingdom) following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

As part of the mandate given by the ESA Member States to Arianespace, the operation of the Soyuz launcher from Europe’s Spaceport (CSG, French Guiana) and from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) through Starsem are governed by France/Russia inter-governmental agreement and ESA – Roscosmos space agencies agreement. This operation began after the end of the Soviet Union and has been very successful up to now. However, it is now challenged by Roscosmos’ unilateral decision to withdraw from CSG and suspend all Soyuz launches from Europe’s Spaceport. Readied Soyuz launchers and Galileo satellites are in stable configuration and in security.

Regarding ST38 for OneWeb from Baikonur, it has been postponed indefinitely following the conditions posed by Roscosmos to proceed. Arianespace will work with its partners to ensure the well-being of the goods and means currently in Baikonur.

Arianespace is in close contact with its customers and French and European authorities to best assess all the consequences of this situation and develop alternative solutions.

In the meantime, preparation of upcoming Ariane 5 and Vega C campaigns of 2022 are progressing according to plan and schedule.

Taking over from Ariane 5 and Vega, Ariane 6 and Vega C will provide Europe with a sustainable and autonomous access to space. Arianespace is confident in the success of these two launchers, to which it has been strongly committed since ESA’s 2014 Ministerial Conference in Luxembourg, on European institutional and global commercial markets.

OneWeb Suspends Satellite Launches From Baikonur

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Friday launch of 36 OneWeb broadband satellites aboard a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome is officially canceled as the London-based company refused demands from the Russian government amid growing international tensions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The Board of OneWeb has voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur,” the company said in a one-sentence statement.

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Russia Holds OneWeb Satellites Hostage; No Launch Unless Company & British Government Meet Demands

Vladimir Putin receives a briefing from Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: Office of the Russian President)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In what is likely the first hostage drama involving communication satellites, the head of the Russian space program has demanded that the British government divest its shares in OneWeb and that the broadband satellite operator not provide services to foreign militaries in order to launch a new batch of spacecraft. The move comes amid growing tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions imposed on the country by western nations.

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that unless these demands are met, Russia will refuse to launch 36 OneWeb satellites that sit atop a Soyuz-2.1b rocket currently on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch is scheduled for Saturday morning Moscow time.

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