European Space Agency to let private firms compete for chance to deliver cargo to ISS

© E Prigent, P Baudon, ESA-CNES-Arianespace/Optique, AFP/File

The European Space Agency announced Monday it would hold a competition between firms to build a ship to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, in a potential first step towards independent missions carrying astronauts.

The ESA's 22 member states, whose space ministers were meeting at a two-day summit in the Spanish city of Seville, also agreed to provide financial support for Europe's long-delayed Ariane 6 rocket.

The summit comes at a difficult time for European space efforts, as the Ariane 6 delays have left the continent without a way to independently blast its missions into space.

Europe also faces growing competition not just from the United States, but newer players China and India, as well as private companies such as billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX.

ESA chief Josef Aschbacher told the summit that "a new economy is developing in low Earth orbit that will transform space exploration," adding that "private companies are revolutionising the landscape from launchers to exploration".

Aschbacher proposed "a competition between innovative European companies" to develop a ship that would transport cargo to the ISS by 2028 -- then bring it back to Earth.


Read more on FRANCE 24 English

Read also:
‘A first’ from Mars: European spacecraft sends livestream from red planet
Ariane 5 blasts into space on final flight amid Europe rocket crisis
Europe's Euclid telescope lifts off in search of the universe's 'dark' mysteries