FAST #294 supplied readers with a quick take on what was at stake at the
European space meetings in Edinburgh last week. Research ministers from the
European Space Agency’s member nations met to thrash out a budget, and the
one they came up with is not likely to surprise anyone, especially not FAST
readers, but nonetheless marks a historic moment in European technology
independence. (For background see FAST #92 and #223.) Ariane came out the
big winner, as nobody wants to see European space deprived of efficient,
up-to-date launch capacity. Due in particular to a significant increase in
Germany’s participation, the Ariane launcher program will receive $1.85
billion over the next five years (the ESA budget period) of which nearly
half will fund the Ariane Plus program aimed at getting 12-ton payloads
aloft cheaply and dependably by 2006.

The Kourou Space Center, Ariane’s
launch site in French Guyana, will benefit from $500 million injected over
the same period in an effort to keep launch costs competitive. The other
program for which it was also Christmas in November in Edinburgh was
Galileo, from the voluntary-programs side of the ledger. Everyone except
Denmark ante-ed up, (with Great Britain making their contribution
conditional on the EU paying its share) for a total of $500 million which,
with the EU’s half a billion, will make up nearly one third of what will
finally be needed to make European satellite positioning a reality. (N.B.:
The ESA is not an EC or EU agency; members include two non-EU nations,
Switzerland and Norway, and do not include two EU members, Greece and

Designed as a system of 21 satellites, the Galileo universal
positioning system will boast 1-meter precision, and could be in place by
2008 positioning anyone who would like to know where they are without asking
the US Army (owners of the GPS). As expected, ESA scientific research did
not get a raise and will have to curtail its ambitions, while technology
research on telecom satellites was also left hungry. Terrestrial observation
by satellite, an ambitious European program, got a third of what it was
asking, or less than a billion dollars for five years. ESA spending on
manned flight was suspended while awaiting word from NASA if their new
reduced vision for the ISS still includes a spot for a Euro-naut.

As the
Ariane/Galileo budget shows, geo-political strategies may call for large
technology spending but not necessarily spending on science. (Libération,
November 16, p24, Sylvestre Huet; Le Figaro, November 16, p11, Fabrice