European Union to sign £154m space deal with USA in major world first | World | News

The European Union has finalised a significant security agreement with the United States, paving the way for Elon Musk‘s SpaceX to launch EU satellites. The deal, worth £154 million, comes as a response to delays in Europe’s own Ariane rocket system.

According to POLITICO, sources say the agreement allows EU and European Space Agency (ESA) personnel continual access to SpaceX’s launchpad and prioritised rights to retrieve and manage debris in the event of a rocket failure. The agreement received approval from national general affairs ministers on Tuesday.

Last year, the European Commission sealed a £154 million deal with SpaceX to launch four Galileo satellites due to setbacks in the Ariane 6 rocket project, handled by ArianeGroup on behalf of ESA.

The Ariane 6, after numerous delays, is anticipated to launch this summer from French Guiana’s spaceport. However, commercial missions are not expected until later.

The contract with SpaceX includes provisions for two launches of Galileo satellites this year. With Russia‘s Soyuz launcher unavailable due to the conflict in Ukraine, SpaceX emerged as the sole viable option.

The security pact, set to be formally signed next week, outlines plans to transport the approximately 700-kilogram Galileo satellites to the US by March 27.

The first launch is scheduled for the latter part of April, with the second slated for July, according to Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton.

Ensuring access to classified equipment and documentation related to Galileo, the agreement grants EU and ESA personnel certain security privileges. Moreover, it stipulates that in case of launch failure, ESA is authorised to retrieve and manage debris, returning it to Europe.

To address concerns from member states like France about over-reliance on SpaceX over Ariane, the security pact includes an expiry date of 2027.

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