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The competition heats up: European aerospace companies Airbus and Safran have signed an agreement to merge their rocket divisions.
The companies said the joint-venture would combine Airbus Group’s launch systems with Safran’s propulsion systems, but hinted at broader integration of public and private activities in an effort to duplicate the success of planemaker Airbus. Europe’s Ariane 5 space launcher dominates the market for large commercial satellites but faces growing concerns over its future due to competition from Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), run by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.
To respond to the threat, Airbus and Safran aim to lead a drive towards an integrated European launch firm drawing on the lessons of Airbus’s planemaking unit, which was spurred into turning itself from being a consortium into a single company by the merger of transatlantic rivals Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in 1997. [emphasis mine]
The article, like practically every other report about Europe’s space effort in the past two years, singles out the competitive threat being made to their market share by SpaceX. Increasingly, the price reductions being offered by Musk’s company combined with its repeated success in launching payloads into orbit is forcing Europe to cut its own costs and become more efficent, something they have not bothered to do in decades. As result access to space is about to get signigicantly cheaper.