Space: France wants to increase its role in the conquest of space



Opened with fanfare this weekend in Paris, the International Astronautical Congress intends to put France back at the center of the great geopolitical and economic game of space conquest. Sunday, September 18, Elisabeth Borne announced an envelope of 9 billion euros for the space sector over the next three years.

Space as a battlefield

In detail, a good part of this budget is in fact already earmarked: 1.5 billion euros will come out of the France 2030 recovery plan, and the funds allocated to Cnes, the French space center, are those provided for by the law of multi-annual research program, already voted. Five billion euros out of the nine will finally come from the military programming law which runs until 2025.

The French government had given several clues in recent months before clearly assuming it: France must become a military space power. “We cannot be naïve to the weaponization of space, hammered Elisabeth Borne. It becomes a field of confrontation in its own right, it is no longer a fiction. » To defend itself against potential foreign interference, but not to go it alone for all that: France must succeed in convincing its European partners to open their scholarships on the occasion of the next conference of European space ministers.

Scheduled for the end of November, this meeting should fix the budget of the European Space Agency (ESA) from 2024. Josef Aschbacher, the boss of the ESA, hopes for an extension of four billion, for a total budget of 18 billion euros. euros over three years. The issue of human exploration will be on the table. Europe does not currently have its own taxis to send astronauts and depends on the United States or Russia, depending on geopolitical tensions.

Ariane Group wants to switch to reusable “bricks”

On the industry side, we welcome these investments, and above all a policy resolutely oriented towards “a European preference” in terms of calls for tenders and development. Ariane Group, which is experiencing delays with Ariane 6, also took advantage of Congress to present a reusable rocket stage project. “Susie”, as it is called, is designed to take the place of the launcher fairing, the upper part where the cargo or the astronauts to be sent are located.

Currently at the concept stage, this reusable stage should be compatible with future Ariane 6 rockets. Its internal volume of 40 cubic meters would make it possible to transport both cargo and a crew of up to five people, image of a space capsule. As the ESA and the European Commission call for renewed space ambition in Europe for exploration and flight hacock, said Morena Bernardini, director of strategy at Ariane Group, Susie provides a particularly clever response to future needs for space services and automated or manned transport. »

This project joins other reusable “bricks” in development at Ariane Group, such as the Prometheus engine which will equip future rockets following Ariane 6, and the Themis first stage. Reusable rockets, which currently only exist with the Americans of SpaceX, should make it possible to reduce the costs of the space race.

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