European Space Agency to launch two missions on SpaceX rockets

One of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, which the European Space will use to launch two missions.

The European Space Agency announced Thursday that it will use SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets to launch two science missions due to delays with its own Ariane 6 rocket and the cancellation of flights on Russian Soyuz launchers.

ESA’s Euclid space telescope was due to launch on a Soyuz rocket next year, but Russia withdrew in February in response to European sanctions against the Moscow war in Ukraine.

Euclid, whose aim is to better understand the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter, will now instead take a ride to space on the Falcon 9 rocket from billionaire Elon Musk’s American company SpaceX.

ESA’s Hera mission, which will investigate the Didymos asteroid that NASA successfully knocked off course in September by slamming the DART spacecraft into it, will launch on a Falcon 9 in late 2024, ESA director general said. Joseph Ashbacher.

The use of other launchers was “a temporary measure” for the ESA because of the “Soyuz outage in particular”, but also because of the delay of Ariane 6, Aschbacher told a news conference on Thursday.

The announcement came a day after ESA revealed that the Ariane 6’s maiden flight had been delayed again and will now launch in the last quarter of next year.

Originally scheduled for 2020, the Ariane 6’s inaugural flight was previously delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and development issues.

The new launch system replaces the highly successful Ariane 5, which is no longer in production.

Ariane 6 is expected to eventually take over the Soyuz missions, and once up and running it will likely compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9, especially when it comes to sending small satellites into the sky.

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According to consultancy Euroconsult, some 18,500 satellites weighing less than 500 kilograms are expected to be launched into space over the next ten years.

In recent days, a test model of the Ariane 6 has been successfully assembled on the launch pad of the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana.

While the model will not fly, it will provide the opportunity to test the engine, communications, software and other aspects of the highly anticipated launch.

Video: Testing Ariane 6 launchpad

© 2022 AFP

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