This is the first time I have found myself adding a second part to one of my blog posts, and only a few days after publication at that. The reason is simple: the reaction generated and occasional misinterpretation require that I express myself on the subject once again in the clearest terms.
Looking back to when I was Head of the German Delegation to ESA, when we developed the so-called High-Level Requirements. At that time, it was obvious that we should develop a cheaper launcher in order to remain in the commercial market while securing the strategic goal of European autonomous access to space. Based on those High-Level Requirements, industry proposed a launcher family consisting of at least three launchers: Ariane 64, Ariane 62 and Vega C. By introducing commonalities between the different launchers, by changing the governance and by introducing new production technologies and processes the goal was achievable to significantly reduce costs and at the same time have the new system ready in a rather short period of time.
The decision of ESA’s Member States to implement this proposal was the right choice.
Consequently, ESA is completely committed, together with its industrial partners, to doing its utmost to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.
These points were made clear in Part 1 of “Europe’s move”. However, some people chose to interpret my words in such a way as to suggest that I see the launcher family as currently defined as the wrong solution. My call to look to the future and find disruptive solutions cannot come as a surprise coming from the Director General of ESA, an organisation which was founded to develop Europe in space. It would be irresponsible for me to announce that the current family will remain as is for all time. This is exactly what the Ministers asked for in 2014:
Maintain and ensure European launcher competence with a long-term perspective, including possibility of reusability/fly-back.
We will complete the Ariane 6 / Vega C family, fulfilling the demands of satellite providers, launch service customers and the European public for affordable and reliable launchers while at the same time securing for Europe autonomous access to space. In parallel, we will think about further enhancements as well as turning our minds to systems still far off in the future, which today may seem more vision than reality. My fervent hope is that the spirit for such an approach still exists in Europe and that it is part of our responsibility to be completely transparent where taxpayers’ money is involved.