1. What is happening?
European Space Agency (ESA) has seen a slow down of European space companies that provide launch services, mainly due to competition. Specifically the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), with their Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), and smaller start-ups that focus on launching CubeSats and other small satellites.
Early in 2017, ISRO successfully launched 104 satellites in one rocket! Out of the 104 satellites, 2 of them were Indian, and the rest were from customers from all over the world (aka Europe). Now the ESA wants to compete with Indian companies by having more launch providers.
2. What European company is helping?
Avio’s various products include a suite of advanced offerings meant to compete with PSLV on ground rocket services and price (which plays key to India’s advantage). Avio also intends “mini-launcher” variant for dedicated missions for CubeSats and larger but still low-mass satellites.
Avio CEO, Giulio Ranzo says “I don’t think we can ever make a launcher the size of Vega for the price of what they do in India”, referring to Europe’s higher labor costs and stringent environmental regulations. “But I think we can differentiate ourselves by providing a more sophisticated, more performing service that’s more accurate, more reliable, more flexible, etc.”
This appears to be a healthy competition that will push both agencies to come up with great products and services that can only benefit the space community. In fact, ESA and ISRO are in talks to collaborate on future space missions. Earlier 2017, ESA senior scientist, Mark McCaughrean told The Times of India, "ESA plans further collaboration with ISRO in various space missions. Had an informal discussion with former ISRO chairman UR Rao at Bangalore. The current ISRO chairman, AS Kiran Kumar was in a meeting in Delhi that day. Earlier, ESA had collaborated with ISRO on Chandrayaan-1 mission to Moon."
To learn more about Avio and Vega, please visit: http://www.avio.com/en/vega/