|Can NewSpace Survive European Politics?|
|Written by Jeff Krukin|
|Sunday, 08 February 2009|
As reported by Rob Coppinger at Flightglobal, "The prospect of an all-European competitor to US suborbital tourism projects has become stronger with the €7.3 million ($9.68 million) funding of the Future High-Altitude High-Speed Transport (FAST) 20XX project that will focus on two concepts, one suborbital, the other a hypersonic point-to-point transport system." (Click here for full story).
I would love to see this happen, as more competition will benefit the industry around the world. However, the words "all-European" immediately raise concerns.
Recent history has demonstrated the difficulties that can occur when European aerospace companies attempt cross-border programs that depend on funding from multiple national governments, and when payrolls of corporations in these countries are affected. For example:
You may rightfully say, "Hold on there, Jeff, that's just two examples." True enough, but the parent company of Airbus is EADS, which expressed its NewSpace intent at the Paris 2007 Airshow when EADS Astrium announced its spaceplane design. How is this coming along? As I wrote last June, the company was unable to generate sufficient interest among potential partners. Even worse, the views expressed by European Commission Vice President Guenter Verheugen speak volumes about the attitudes of the European political establishment toward entrepreneurial space activity (NewSpace). Referring to public remarks by Guenter, Astrium Chief Executive Francois Auque said, "I was even told that this project was morally blameworthy because it targets an audience of the rich people." (Source: June 13, 2008 issue of Space News).
So, yes, I'm making some assumptions here due to these previous problems and the likelihood that EADS will be involved in the program cited by Rob Coppinger. It is also quite clear that political pressure contributed to unwise business decisions. All of which leaves me wondering if NewSpace can survive European politics when traditional and far more economically important aerospace has suffered from political influence?
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