ESA is revamping how it builds rockets in order to compete with SpaceX.

The competition heats up: ESA is revamping how it builds rockets in order to compete with SpaceX.

ESA officials have been spooked by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., which has demonstrated its technical prowess with the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo vehicle to the international space station. SpaceX officials say one of the keys to its success is that Falcon 9 is built in one factory owned by SpaceX.

Read the whole thing. The way ESA builds the Ariane rocket requires too many participants (what we in the U.S. call pork), raising its cost. ESA is now abandoning that approach to cut costs and thus compete with SpaceX.

Europe ponders choosing the design of the next generation Ariane rocket.

Europe ponders the design choices for the next generation of their Ariane rocket.

Though the article above makes no mention of Falcon 9 and its very low launch costs, I have no doubt that Falcon 9 hovers like a ghost over the negotiations on what ESA will do with Ariane 5, a rocket that despite an excellent launch record has never really been able to make a profit due to high costs.

Germany’s space chief sees big battles in Europe over funding for ISS and Ariane

Germany’s space chief yesterday said he expected big battles in Europe over future funding for ISS and Ariane.

Ariane is a serious problem, as it is expensive and a money-loser, despite dominating the commercial market in recent years. And worse, it will be difficult to make Ariane competitive in the future:

ESA in 2010 hired an outside auditor to review the current Ariane 5 system to look for ways to save money. Its principal conclusion was that very few savings were possible without scrapping the forced geographic distribution of industrial contracts that preserves the political and financial support needed for the Ariane system.