European Space Agency supports commercial space entities, but Arianespace opposes competition to their monopoly.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is facing a dilemma as the rise of private launch companies in Europe backed by investors has prompted some space officials to call for the ESA to support these commercial space entities. Arianespace, a Paris-based launch company owned by various aerospace suppliers across Europe, markets and operates a small launcher in the form of the Vega C rocket and heavy-lift rockets in the form of the soon-to-be retired Ariane 5 and forthcoming Ariane 6 rocket. Arianespace’s chief executive Stéphane Israël argued that it is not possible to copy-paste the US model due to the difference in level of space spending and private capital. He also said that the ESA must resist supporting microlaunchers to the point where they might compete with the existing capabilities.
However, Israël also acknowledged that Europe must develop a reusable heavy-lift vehicle, which appears to be a recognition of the success of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and the development of its fully reusable Starship rocket. He argued that Europe cannot afford to have multiple big or heavy, reusable launchers and that it will require a lot of public money, industrial excellency, and solidarity in Europe to make it happen.
Ultimately, Israël believes that Europe’s existing launch monopoly should retain that monopoly for decades to come. It is up to European space officials to decide whether they agree and to decide how to best support the commercial space industry in Europe.