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ESA boss praises SpaceX

May 26, 2023

Josef Aschbacher, Director General at European Space Agency (ESA) has praised Elon Musk’s SpaceX, saying that the rocket launch company “has undeniably changed the launcher market paradigm as we know it.”

Aschbacher, in a blog post for ESA, said: “With the dependable reliability of Falcon 9 and the captivating prospects of Starship, SpaceX continues to totally redefine the world’s access to space, pushing the boundaries of possibility as they go along. Once successful, Starship will carry payloads of around 100 tonnes into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) while reducing the launch cost by a factor of 10. Falcon 9 aims to launch 100 times in 2023.”

But then came his admission that Europe’s space plans finds itself today in an acute launcher crisis with a (albeit temporary) gap in its own access to space and no real launcher vision beyond 2030.

“My hope,” says Aschbacher, “quite possibly my biggest aspiration for Europe, is that this temporary lack of access to space, combined with this moment of novel opportunities in exploration and a rapidly evolving space economy, will be the impetus for a deep reflection of Europe’s modus operandi, leading to a transformation of our overall space ecosystem. But also, that the generally accepted position that Europe cannot again lose out on key strategic domains as we did a few decades ago on IT or quantum computing inspires hope and that this time, Europe will be ready to act – and to deliver.”

He pulls no punches in regard to the future challenges for ESA. Top of his list is placing Europe in a leading position in terms of access to space and space exploration again, and cites the top-priority actions that should be undertaken by ESA between now and 2030:

• The successful debut flight of Ariane 6 and the return to flight of the Vega-C rocket.
• Add mini-launchers
• Prepare for the 2023/2024 Space Summits and gain political support
• Develop future space infrastructure
• Boost private opportunities in European space
• Create a new Flagship programme

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