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 â€" "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 â€" 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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"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

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