Norbert Barthle Germany
Norbert Barthle, parliamentary state secretary for Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transportation and Digital Infrastructures, said a space-capable Europe is necessary "more than ever before." Credit: Arianespace livestream screenshot

WASHINGTON —  A member of Germany’s ruling party said the isolationist signals emanating from the Trump White House are reinforcing the need for Europe to be able to go it alone in space.

“If we recognize the vibrations that the new U.S. government sends over the ocean to us — and maybe it’s not only a vibration — I think it’s very necessary more than ever before that we in Europe have our own capacity and our own competence to enter the space, to shoot satellites into space and to put together all the European competence you can find for a successful mission,” said Norbert Barthle, parliamentary state secretary for Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transportation and Digital Infrastructures.

Barthle was speaking Jan. 27 at  Arianespace’s Jupiter Control Center in Kourou, French Guiana, following the successful launch of Hispasat-36W-1, a satellite built by German manufacturer OHB Systems AG and orbited on a Europeanized-Russian Soyuz rocket.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been critical of the European Union and Germany, telling British newspaper The Times in an interview published Jan. 16 that the European Union is “basically a vehicle for Germany,” and adding later that he expects other members will follow the U.K. in exiting the group. Though being part of the EU is not a requirement for being part of the European Space Agency, most members overlap between the two.

ESA has a contract with Airbus Safran Launchers to build Europe’s next-generation medium- and heavy-lift rocket, the Ariane 6, and with Italy’s Avio for the next-generation light-lift launcher, Vega C. The new rockets are to ensure European access to space more cost-effectively than the current Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega family of launchers.

ESA Director General Jan Woerner, speaking before Barthle, highlighted the collective public and private efforts of ESA member states in developing Hispasat-36W-1, a telecommunications satellite for Spanish operator Hispasat.

“This makes a great story at the end of the day that we are not celebrating national success, but we are celebrating here European success, and I think this is very good,” he said.

Woerner, the former chairman of the German Aerospace Center’s executive board, touted space as having an ability to demonstrate “global cooperation beyond earthly crisis,” pointing out the congratulations he received after the launch from Igor Komarov, head of the Russian State Space Corp. Roscosmos regarding the success of the Soyuz launch.

“This shows that we can cooperate even in very difficult political situations. Space can do it and we should always look to that. We need this bridge for the whole globe, not only for two or three countries,” he added.

The European Union, like the United States, sanctioned Russia following its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...