European Commission, one of the most vital institutions in European Union, decided to support financially European commercial space sector. Ultimate objective for European space program was finally refined: starting independent space access with Ariane 6 in 2020.
12 billion Euros by 2020 for Airbus Safrane for supporting mainly Ariane 6 project – this is solution for European space program announced on October 24, 2016. European space program after years of public-private partnership programs is still far from space program of Russia, main partner for European space agency – ESA. Agency is still relying mostly on Russian launch vehicles and has large number of projects based on Russian technology and experience. It should be considered as sign of common sense that European Commission would like to change this situation. There is no other way for Europe, if EU would like to join leaders like USA, China or Russia. But due the simple reason Ariane 6 seems to be lost chance for bringing European space industry into first league.
First question should be is it good to invest in Company, which suffers for delays and tried to offer rocket with launch cost beyond level of competitiveness comparing to competition. Well probably not – before last official announcements from 2014 and 2015 (concept of Ariane 6 has changed many times) it was rather clear that rocket will not be less expensive than main competitors. But in fact European Commission probably has no other way; last decades resulted in establishing on space market in Europe small number of large Companies like Airbus Safrane. Without any competitors inside EU and achieving something like monopoly, Airbus Safrane with Ariane 6 remains only project European rocket on the market able to deliver large payload. Competition from Russia wins with price, but companies like RKK Energia or TsSKB-Progress are associated in Sate Company Roscosmos; they are interested only in selling launch services with lowest possible price to make creating any launch vehicle in Europe economically unprofitable. European politicians seem to spot this simple fact and would like to spend 12 billion Euros for creating new European rocket. For sure at the moment, when work on Ariane 6 seems to be advanced, it would be hard to find in EU any company with competitive project for less money or even impossible, if we keep in mind 2020 as planned date of the maiden flight of new rocket. Of course, Arianespace and Airbus Safrane still states that new Ariane 6 will be able to deliver up to 10 t to GTO orbit for less than doubled cost of Falcon-9 FT, but not earlier than in 2020. It means, when one of the main competitors for Arianespace, SpaceX will already possess Falcon Heavy (22 t for GTO missions) already for at least two years. Is it possible to reduce launch cost with Ariane 6 under cost of Falcon Heavy with reusable technology? It seems that European Commission strongly believes that it is possible, forgetting about simple fact, that last decade was full of innovations which will not be part of Ariane. In this case money will simply not change anything – Ariane 6 will not be next generation launch vehicle but only average construction with more sophisticated competitors.