Monday, November 28, 2022
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Science. The European Space Agency will launch two missions with SpaceX

The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to launch two scientific missions with Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket due to the interruption of the launch of Russian Soyuz rockets from Kourou and the delay in Ariane 6, its director announced on Thursday.

The European Euclid and Hera probes will both be launched by the Falcon 9 launcher designed by Elon Musk’s company, Josef Aschbacher said during a press briefing after an ESA board meeting.

Waiting for Ariane 6

“This is a temporary measure that we are taking due to the interruption of Soyuz launches and while we await the ascent of Ariane 6”, whose maiden flight was delayed in the last quarter of 2023, he said.

Euclid will study the expansion of the universe after it lifts off in 2023. It was originally planned to take off on a Soyuz rocket. The Hera probe will take off in late 2024 towards the asteroid recently deflected by NASA (the Dart mission).

In 2020, ESA had already launched a Sentinel-6 satellite from the European Earth observation program Copernicus with a Falcon 9 reusable rocket.

The program for the new Ariane 6 launch vehicle, which would succeed Ariane 5 and carry out the missions previously carried out by Soyuz, was launched in 2014. Originally planned for 2020, the first flight of Ariane 6 has already had to be delayed for two years in due to the Covid-19 pandemic and development issues.

In February, the Russian invasion of Ukraine cut off all European cooperation with Russia and deprived the European space base Kourou, in French Guiana, of satellite launches by Russian rockets.

Mars exploration delayed

A third mission, EarthCare, a satellite to observe the Earth’s atmosphere, was to leave with the Soyuz. It will finally take off with the new European searchlight Vega-C, in early 2024, detailed Josef Aschbacher.

The ExoMars mission, also suspended after the invasion of Ukraine, would have to wait until 2028 to take off, according to the new ESA exploration program, which will be presented to the 22 member states at the agency’s ministerial conference at the end of November.

“Today would have been exactly one month after the launch, which was planned for September 20. But now we will have to wait, if the ministers decide to continue the project, for a launch in 2028 for a landing in 2030,” said David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA.

In March, Josef Asbacher had deemed it impossible to launch ExoMars “at least before 2026”.

The European rover Rosalind Franklin, designed to drill deep into the Martian soil in search of traces of extraterrestrial life, was to be deposited there with a Russian lander.

Several replacement options are under discussion, but a European solution is “preferred” at this stage, added David Parker.

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