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Arianespace, A Clever European Challenger To SpaceX

European rocket company Arianespace doesn't get the attention of Elon Musk's U.S.-based upstart SpaceX, but its approach may be better equipped for the long haul.

Arianespace launch in May 2015
Arianespace launch in May 2015
Gerhard Hegmann

EVRY-COURCOURONNES"They are cheaper and you are basically dead already." These were the kind of comments that Stéphane Israël had to endure two years ago in reference to the ongoing space race between Europe's Ariane rocket and the American-made SpaceX, both designed to transport satellites into space.

Arianespace, the well-established France-based global market leader versus the new kid on the block from California, headed by multi-billionaire Elon Musk, the man behind electric car manufacturer Tesla.

SpaceX and its recycled rockets and spectacular success are turning heads on a global scale. Musk has already achieved a soft landing after a return from outer space, and he is envisioning rockets that can be refuelled like regular airplanes. This scenario costs only a fraction of the industry's usual single-use approach.

But Israël refuses to give up — quite the opposite, in fact. "It would be a huge mistake to only concentrate on SpaceX when contemplating the competition," he says.

He stresses that there are more competitors in the field besides SpaceX and that Arianespace is more sound than any of the others. "We are more reliable and will always remain more reliable," the 45-year-old says. "A new rocket is more secure than a used one. You don't always have to believe what the competition espouses."

Israël points to last year, during which the Ariane rocket beat SpaceX. Europe won more commercial commissions to launch satellites into geostationary orbit than the California rookie, with a final annual score of 12-9.

This rocket race is the most tangible proof of the paradigm shift in space travel. A new movement in the U.S. called "New Space" has now also enthralled Europe, and Silicon Valley is already working on new business ideas and technological solutions.

Instead of the usual, large satellites, smaller versions with electric engines are now being used. Venture capitalists are financing ideas that would have merely been the stuff of science fiction films not so long ago. Luxembourg, for example, only recently announced that it would invest in so-called space mining, the extraction of raw materials from asteroids.

There are thousands of ongoing projects that concern themselves with supplying Internet access through orbiting satellites. But new players, such as Google and SpaceX, are now joining the well-established elite. The Airbus Group used to build at least two large satellites per year. But from now on it will concentrate on building hundreds of small ones instead.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Palestinian Olive Trees Are Also Under Israeli Occupation — And That's Not A Joke

In the West Bank, a quieter form of oppression has been plaguing Palestinians for a long time. Their olive groves are surrounded by soldiers, and it's forbidden to harvest the olives – this economic and social violence has gotten far worse since Oct. 7.

A Palestinian woman holds olives in her hands

In a file photo, Um Ahmed, 74, collects olives in the village of Sarra on the southwest of the West Bank city of Nablus.

Mohammed Turabi/ZUMA
Francesca Mannocchi

HEBRON – It was after Friday prayers on October 13th of last year, and Zakaria al-Arda was walking along the road that crosses his property's hillside to return home – but he never made it.

A settler from Havat Ma'on — an outpost bordering Al-Tuwani that the United Nations International Law and Israeli law considers illegal — descended from the hill with his rifle in hand.

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After kicking al-Arda, who tried to defend himself, the settler shot him in the abdomen. The bullet pierced through his stomach, a few centimeters below the lungs. Since then, al-Arda has been in the hospital in intensive care. A video of those moments clearly shows that neither al-Arda nor the other worshippers leaving the mosque were carrying any weapons.

The victim's cousin, Hafez Hureini, still lives in the town of Al-Tuwani. He is a farmer, and their house on the slope of the town is surrounded by olive trees — and Israeli soldiers. On the pine tree at the edge of his property, settlers have planted an Israeli flag. Today, Hafez lives, like everyone else, as an occupied individual.

He cannot work in his greenhouse, cannot sow his fields, and cannot harvest the olives from his precious olive trees.

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