Science and Exploration

ESA Ministerial Conference to Focus on Ariane 6, ISS, Exploration and the Evolution of ESA

By Marc Boucher
November 30, 2014
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ESA Ministerial Conference to Focus on Ariane 6, ISS, Exploration and the Evolution of ESA
Artist illustration of Ariane 6.

The next ESA Ministerial Conference will take place this Tuesday in Luxembourg. At the top of the agenda is Europe’s future access to space with a modular Ariane 6 intended to be meet the changing demands of the satellite industry as well as being more price competitive.
According to ESA, the need for a modular Ariane 6 is the changing commercial market and in particular the telecommunications market which “favours the introduction of electric propulsion, which could reverse the decades-long trend of higher and higher tonnages and will require new orbit injection strategies.”

ESA also stated that “at the same time, there is an increasing number of European institutional payloads with the advent in particular of the Galileo and Copernicus constellations, providing a fairly stable market for recurrent launches of medium-sized satellites.”

This means the Ariane 6 will have two configurations, one to serve the medium market and the other to serve the heavy launch market. Both should be ready for use from 2020. To serve the small satellite market an upgraded Soyuz Vega launch system, the Vega C, will be developed.

ESA estimates that it will require €3.8 billion ($4.7B US) from Member States for completion of the Ariane 6 and Vega C development program.

The International Space Station

ESA sees the International Space Station (ISS) as a key element within the three destinations for exploration they are interested in; Low Earth Orbit (LEO), the moon and Mars.

Ministers will need to approve ESA’s ISS activities for the next three years through to 2017 with an estimated cost of €820 million ($1.02B US).

Ministers will also be discussion future moon and Mars missions including:

– Contribution to Russia’s Luna-Resource Lander (planned for launch in 2019) and Lunar Polar Sample Return (planned for launch in the early 2020s) missions. No full decision on these missions is expected until the 2016 Ministerial Conference.

– The ExoMars programme, involving two missions to Mars in 2016 and 2018.

– The Mars Robotic Exploration Preparation Programme (MREP-2) is proposed for further subscriptions, allowing for the adequate preparation of future exploration activities, leading to a broad Mars Sample Return mission in which Europe should be involved as a full partner.

The Future of ESA

Ministers will be asked to support the continued relationship between ESA and the European Union which keeps ESA as an independent space organization.

Background: ESA Ministerial Conference: Launchers

Background: ESA Ministerial Conference: ISS Participation

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