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Europeans Charting Course To Be Independent Of United States In Both Civil, Military Space

By | September 22, 2008

      The Europeans wish to be independent of the United States in space, including a capacity to make their own satellites and launchers.

      As the United States falls on hard times, both economically/financially and in the future of its space program, the Europeans issued a declaration of independence from the Yanks.

      The European Commission (EC), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Defence Agency (EDA) agreed to develop critical space technologies in Europe, the ESA announced.

      It explained that the aim is to ensure that Europe can rely on a technical and industrial capacity for accessing space, to include manufacturing satellites and launchers.

      A workshop on critical space technologies in Brussels brought together more than 100 stakeholders from more than 20 countries, representing the EC, ESA, and EDA, their respective member states, national agencies and European space industry.

      The European move comes as NASA has but 10 scheduled space shuttle missions remaining before President Bush has commanded that the shuttle fleet will be retired in 2010. A lack of money and opportunity is seen in many areas of the space program, such as a decision to leave a $1.5 billion international experiment sitting uselessly on the ground for lack of will or funding to have another shuttle mission scheduled to transport it to the International Space Station.

      After shuttles cease flying in 2010, NASA won’t be able to fly even one astronaut to the space station for half a decade, until the new Orion-Ares spaceship system begins manned flights in 2015. After 2010, U.S. astronauts will have to hitch rides instead on Russian Soyuz spaceships. But beginning in 2012, even that will have to stop unless Congress provides permission, and immense sums of money, to buy more Soyuz missions from the Russians. Given rogue Russian behavior such as invading Georgia, that congressional permission isn’t likely to be forthcoming.

      Europe, meanwhile, has developed a robotic cargo ship that can fly to the space station.

      "While Europe wants to continue its cooperation with other important space nations in the world, the development of space technologies for ensuring non-dependence is of strategic importance for Europe and for its role as a major space power and credible international partner," the ESA declared.

      "Therefore concrete steps towards European non-dependence will be taken by [the EC, ESA and EDA], together with member states and European industry raising awareness, initiating work toward a common methodology and implementing concrete actions."

      Now comes the work of spelling out the path to European independence.

      "An EC/ESA/EDA task force, involving European industry and [research and technology] actors, shall continue to develop the list of critical space technologies for a coherent Europe-wide approach," the ESA explained.

      "It will do so based on an agreed methodology, building on existing and recognised harmonisation processes and leading to clear instruments for implementation, to ensure the availability of critical space technologies and products for European" space programs.

      There is a reason to bring European military agencies into the space strategy, the ESA continued. "The fact that EDA is part of such a joint effort will avoid duplication and create synergies between efforts to develop civil and defence-related space technologies."

      And this will be good for European space contractors, according to ESA.

      "The joint effort will foster the competitiveness of the European space industry on the world market," the ESA predicted.

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