ESA Needs New Space Companies to Plug Gap

March 2022

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has fundamentally disrupted the European satellite and aerospace economy. In response to Russian aggression, the European Space Agency ESA has suspended joint projects with Russia’s Roskosmos, including improvements to the mid-orbit Galileo satellite system and the Exomars mission to Mars.

Components of Europe’s only high-orbit rocket, the Vega, are also manufactured in parts of Ukraine where hostilities are ongoing. “There’s a shortage of rockets”, complained the head of German satellite maker OHB, Marco Fuchs, to business newspaper Handelsblatt.

Elon Musk’s Space-X could step in to meet much of the demand, but additionally ESA is actively soliciting solutions and alternatives from within the European Union.

“We are requesting European companies working on microlaunchers to give us robust technical information about the state of their developments,” said ESA Director of Space Transportation Daniel Neuenschwander in a statement.  “With a realistic view of development milestones and associated launch dates, we allow European microlauncher services companies to qualify and compete for this individual launch of an ESA mission.”

Venture capital investor and aerospace engineer Hendrik Brandis greeted the opening-up of ESA policies on its tenders, characterizing it to Handelsblatt as a “welcome development.”