Could Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 Rocket Compete With Russian Soyuz?

The European Space Agency (ESA) is seriously considering SpaceX for temporary use of its launchers after Russia blocked Western access to its Soyuz rockets. The West has imposed sanctions on Russia for its war over Ukraine.

HIGHLIGHTS

• ESA could use Elon Musk’s services for temporary launches in the wake of the Ukraine war
• The Ukraine war has been a boon for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 which is getting more customers
• SpaceX has emerged as the top contender for the world in the rocket launching sector
• ESA is also considering Japan and India for its launches

How Is Ukraine War Affecting ESA’s Plans?

Until now, Europe was using the Italian Vega for small payloads, Russian Soyuz for medium payloads, and the Ariane 5 for heavy missions. The next-generation Vega C staged a debut last month and the deployment of the new Ariane 6 has been delayed until next year. It has a precise schedule in October after which the agency will make a backup plan.

Is Europe Dependent On Russia For Its Space Program?

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said that the Ukraine conflict has exposed Europe’s decade-long cooperation strategy with Russia was no longer working. He further said that that was a wake-up call that Europe had become too dependent on Russia.

Aschbacher said the likelihood of backup launches was high. The order of magnitude was certainly a good handful of launches that the agency would need interim solutions for.

Why SpaceX?

Aschbacher said that SpaceX was the more operational of all and certainly one of the back-ups launches ESA was looking at. But the talks between ESA and SpaceX are still in the exploratory phase and any backup solution would be temporary.

Aschbacher said that the agency wanted to make sure that SpaceX was suitable. The interface between satellite and launcher must be suitable and there should be no compromise on payload due to unfamiliar types of launch vibrations.

Meanwhile, satellite internet firm OneWeb booked at least one Falcon 9 launch in March. Also, Northrop Grumman booked three Falcon 9 missions for NASA programs to the International Space Station.

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