There are many space stations in Europe
Many space stations are being created in Europe with several projects carried out by the private sector: the Miura-1 mini rocket from the El Arenosillo site on the Andalusian coast, the Launcher One rocket from Cornwall or the Cosmodrome d’Esrange in the far north of Sweden. Between 2022 and 2031, 18,500 small satellites weighing less than 500 kilograms should be launched, compared to 4,600 in the previous decade.
Cape Canaveral, Kourou… These well-known space sites will soon be joined by others, numerous mini-launch programs and launch base projects driven by space commercialization will proliferate in Europe.
By the end of the year, Spanish start-up PLD Space plans to launch the Miura-1 mini-rocket from El Arenosillo on the Andalusian coast, and the satellites “will be the first to be launched in the UK for the first time”. “The next few weeks,” the UK’s Secretary of State for Innovation, George Freeman, said in late November.
In fact, Virgin Orbit has announced that Launcher One will launch from a Boeing 747 on December 14th from Cornwall, southwest England.
While Sweden has had the Esrange spaceport near Kiruna in the country’s far north for decades, and is building its own spaceport north of neighboring Norwegian island Andøya, new projects abound.
In addition to Space Cornwall, the United Kingdom has at least two: a base in Sutherland in northern Scotland, where the British Orbex is to carry out future launches; the other in SaxaVord, one of the Shetland Islands, from where the French Latitude and the American Astra Cosmos plan to launch their small rockets.
True commercial size
Projects are emerging in Iceland, but also in the Azores, the Canary Islands or the North Sea, where a studied German program plans to launch a missile from a ship that will return to its home port of Bremerhaven.
“There is a proliferation of space bases in Europe,” says Marie-Anne Clair, director of the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in Kourou. “The commercial dimension is real: there is an abundance of microsatellites today that will require missions from microlaunchers,” he explains to AFP.
A large number of satellites have long been dedicated to institutional missions on behalf of space agencies, each with its own base. But the market exploded with the arrival of smaller companies, the miniaturization and proliferation of satellites and their applications (Earth observation data, communications, etc.).
There is no universal convention, but micro and mini launchers are categories capable of placing several hundred kilograms of payload into orbit.
Proliferation of spaceports
About 18,500 small satellites weighing less than 500 kilograms are due to be launched between 2022 and 2031, up from 4,600 in the previous decade, equivalent to one ton sent into space every day over the next decade, according to Euroconsult.
Launch Services is expected to nearly quadruple to $28.4 billion by 2031. Today, most European spaceport projects are led by private actors.
The geographical position of the launch base is important. In the beginning, if there are problems, it should be in areas with very low population density.
The fact of launching near production facilities on the continent and saving long and expensive transport to distant launch points is attractive.
In astronautics, it is only possible to fly north from one’s position. Located near the equator, Kourou “can be launched in all orbits”, but “with northern latitudes such as Sweden, Norway or northern Scotland, you are well positioned to launch only polar-orbiting satellites,” explains Marie-Anne Clair.
However, many small satellite projects are designed for Earth observation, which requires a polar orbit: the satellite is launched toward the North Pole and then orbits between the two poles to scan the entire Earth.
As for the profitability of these mini-launcher and space base projects, “that’s the whole question.” “There are many candidates, some will succeed and some will not,” he says.
The Kuru base, where the Ariane rockets are launched, also has its share of the cake: the French Space Agency, Cnes, is investing 50 million euros in the restoration of the Diamant-1 launch pad, where the first French rockets were launched. fired to market launch services for micro and mini rockets.
Chris Kemp, head of America’s Astra Space launch vehicle, welcomes this: “the more spaceports we have, the more chances we have to get into space.”