With unique challenges threatening Europe's access to space, a succession of solutions and novel initiatives are emerging. From fresh funding to the advent of innovative propulsion technology, Europe is poised to overcome its obstacles and secure a robust future in space exploration.
One of the notable issues in Europe's space access is the cessation of agreements with Russia regarding the Soyouz space vehicle, in addition to the retirement of Ariane 5, delays in Ariane 6, Vega's failures, and a letdown from Virgin Orbit. Notwithstanding these setbacks, countries such as France, Germany, and Italy have committed to annual funding of 340 million euros from 2026 for Ariane 6.
The funding comes with a stipulation; Ariane 6 is to carry out a minimum of “four European institutional missions per year”, while Vega C will have three launches each year. Beyond this, a “model change for future launchers” is under contemplation, where competition will form the cornerstone of selection.
Such a change will make room for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the three countries, including Maia, Zephyr, Sirius, Dark, Opus Aerospace, and HyPrSpace. The objective is to foster innovation that has been missing in the European space sector for the past twenty years.
HyPrSpace: A Pioneer in Innovative Space Propulsion
French company HyPrSpace is set to receive backing from the General Directorate of Armament (DGA), through the Defense Innovation Agency (AID). The company is currently working on an innovative space propulsion technology that could potentially lower space access costs and spawn numerous dual applications.
This technology is “hybrid”, merging a liquid propellant (the oxidizer) with a solid propellant (the fuel). HyPrSpace has been successful in developing a solution to maintain stable propulsion, which has been a long-standing barrier for its extensive use in main launchers.
HyPrSpace's patented architecture empowers controlled and efficient combustion, thereby achieving optimal performance. The company is involved in the DEPHYS project that intends to build a large engine prototype (6 meters high and 1 meter in diameter) based on this ground-breaking architecture.
The prototype will undergo testing by DGA Missile Tests, supplying thrust measurement means to gauge system performance and ensure the safety of the test area. In the event of successful tests, this prototype will be utilized by the launcher “Orbital Baguette 1” (OB-1) which is designed to transport 250 kg satellites into orbit expediently and affordably.
Other “NewSpace” companies might also be recipients of such support, with DGA Missile Tests currently undertaking a feasibility study for flight qualification tests for similar launchers on its other sites in the Landes or the Mediterranean.