SpaceX has signed an agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) to launch European Galileo satellites. The satellites will be sent into orbit by the American company, as it ensures reliability regardless of the general global situation.
SpaceX has signed an agreement to launch up to four flagship European navigation and secure communications satellites into orbit, according to a WSJ report. The company and the ESA recently signed an agreement for two launches next year. Each of them will carry two Galileo satellites, said Javier Benedicto, the agency’s director of navigation. Final approval from the European Commission is currently awaited. This will likely happen before the end of the year, officials said.
According to Benedicto, the agreement provides for the launch of satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket. A representative of the European Commission said it was “taking all necessary steps to ensure that the Galileo constellation continues to provide outstanding services in the coming months and years.”
European officials generally prefer to use local rockets for launches. However, Europe’s Ariane rocket program is experiencing delays. Therefore, the American SpaceX has become a reliable solution for delivering critical infrastructure into space. Galileo satellites are strategically important for the EU. They power the unit’s satellite navigation system, giving it autonomy from the US and Chinese Global Positioning System. They also handle encrypted messages used by European governments.
The contract marks the first time EU institutions have engaged SpaceX to launch a satellite containing classified equipment. It is also the first time in 15 years that Galileo satellites will be launched into orbit outside the EU. The rockets usually launch from Guyana, France.
After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, French launch operator Arianespace stopped using Russian Soyuz rockets. At the same time, technical problems have delayed the launch of the upcoming Ariane 6 rocket, which Arianespace plans to use. Its predecessor, Ariane 5, was retired this year, leaving Europe without a larger rocket. Another European rocket, Vega C, failed during its launch last December, revealing its unreliability. The Spanish company PLD Space and Rocket Factory Augsburg in Germany are still developing their technologies.