The European Space Agency has signed an agreement with SpaceX. The space company will thus launch ESA satellites for the first time. The European Space Agency is doing this due to delays with its Ariane 6 rocket.
SpaceX will launch four satellites for the Galileo system, the ESA says to The Wall Street Journal. Under the agreement, the satellites will be launched next year in two separate launches with the SpaceX Falcon 9. The European Commission and EU member states must still approve the launches. This is expected to happen before the end of this year, insiders told the American newspaper. The satellites would then be launched from American soil.
SpaceX did not respond to questions from the WSJ. A spokesperson for the European Commission told the newspaper that it is doing everything it can to ensure that the Galileo constellation “continues to provide excellent services” in the coming months and years. The existing Galileo satellites are expected to continue operating for the time being, but additional satellites would help deal with unexpected disruptions.
The EU has in the past been reluctant to use SpaceX for satellite launches. The Union does not want to be dependent on American companies to launch critical infrastructure. However, she has “no other choice” due to delays with the Ariane 6 rocket and the decision not to use Russian missiles because of the war in Ukraine, insiders told The Wall Street Journal.
It is not expected that SpaceX will be used for more satellite launches, in addition to the four launches that have been agreed. This was reported by Javier Benedicto, the ESA’s director of navigation. Future launches must be done with the Ariane 6. Work has been going on for years on this rocket, which should have been ready in 2020, but is still not ready for use. Its predecessor, the Ariane 5, was retired this year, leaving Europe without its own suitable rocket. The ESA now expects a first Ariane 6 launch in 2024.