No Space For Schadenfreude! What Europe Should Learn From Starship Explosion
Don’t be fooled by the explosion of Elon Musk's Starship rocket. In reality, the U.S. is making giant strides while Europe keeps repeating the same mistakes.
PARIS — Some Europeans found an unhealthy joy in seeing Elon Musk’s rocket explode a few minutes after take-off. Would the Americans, who have been ahead of us Europeans for years in the space field, be able to sell us anything other than this immense cloud of smoke? Has the founder of SpaceX, whose confidence is only matched with arrogance, missed the mark again?
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Far from this state of mind, the Americans have the conviction that failure is part of the learning process. For them, FAIL means First Attempt In Learning. And Elon Musk has experienced many failures before he reached any kind of success.
Massive telecommunications market
Even though the launch has failed, it is undeniable that this Starship rocket, which will take off again in a few months, opens a new page in space history. One where the transfer of people and goods into space will not only be massive but almost “free” — only a few million euros per launch.
Capable of transporting 100 tons of cargo into low Earth orbit, four times the capacity of the future Ariane 6, it opens up immense commercial prospects for start-ups and industrialists wishing to produce new alloys, medicines and other cosmetics without the constraints of gravity.
Private companies have no qualms about turning to the Americans and Indians.
Elon Musk also sees the opportunity to deploy his network of satellites all over the world. Not satisfied with having already sent half of them in orbit, he hopes to capture a good part of the 1,000 billion dollars that the telecommunications market represents on a global scale.
The absurd rule
Some would say this frenzy borders on hubris, but it does have the merit of providing a stark contrast with European ponderousness. If there is one sector where our sovereignty is threatened, it is space: with only one Ariane 5 rocket left to launch, Europe will soon have no autonomous access to space.
This is a serious problem for European states, which obviously cannot entrust the placing of a military satellite in orbit to a foreign power. Private companies, on the other hand, have no qualms about turning to the Americans and Indians to deploy their constellations.
How did we get here? Once again, Europe is paying the price of its fragmentation and of the absurd rule that each country financing the European Space Agency gets its money back in the form of industrial contracts.
This geographical return is a strategic aberration, which prevents us from choosing the most innovative and efficient players. This rule is light years ahead of the Musk strategy, and must be banished as soon as possible in order to get back into the race.
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