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Arianespace and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a contract on Thursday for the Ariane 5 rocket to launch 12 more of Europe’s Galileo GPS satellites on three launches.
This contract is a perfect example of European pork. Europe’s Galileo system might provide competition to the U.S. GPS and Russian Glonass systems, but I am not sure what additional capabilities it provides that will convince GPS users to switch to it. Instead, building it provides European jobs, while using the Ariane 5 rocket to launch it gives that increasingly uncompetitive rocket some work to do. In fact, this situation really reminds me of the U.S. launch market in the 1990s, when Boeing and Lockheed Martin decided that, rather than compete with Russia and ESA for the launch market, they instead decided to rely entirely on U.S. government contracts, since those contracts didn’t really demand that they reduce their costs significantly to compete.
Europe now appears to be heading down that same road.