No, not “airline” rockets. Ariane rockets. According to The Wall Street Journal, EU ministers are finally about to approve plans for a more affordable version of the Ariane series, the same family that launched Rosetta back in 2004. What counts as affordable when developing a rocket, is reportedly between five and six billion dollars. The European Space Agency makes no secret that its goal is to compete with commercial entities like SpaceX, which already has a program to deliver supplies to the ISS.
European politicians are poised to approve a new generation of lower-cost rockets, partly in response to competition from U.S. launch providers, according to government and aerospace-industry officials on both sides of the Atlantic. The officials said European Union ministers, faced with the growing success of Southern California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp., are likely to ratify the decision to develop and build updated versions of Europe’s venerable Ariane rocket for about €4 billion ($5 billion) at a meeting in Luxembourg early next week. If all goes well, the inaugural flight would blast off around the end of the decade. The aim is to create a more commerce-oriented and efficient European space industry, able to cut launch prices significantly while consolidating manufacturing sites. A more difficult challenge would be to phase out various forms of government subsidies for European launchers, a goal that so far has eluded the region’s political leaders.