The European Space Agency Lunar Launch Programs and Service Initiatives to Watch in 2023

The European Space Agency is making strides in its efforts to commercialize space, with a focus on sustained exploration. What are they doing to achieve this? According to the ESA, it all starts with service initiatives.

A recent panel discussion at the Space Tech Expo in Bremen, Germany revealed that the ESA is growing its commercial partnerships in regard to lunar exploration. This development includes initiatives such as setting up services to assist in lunar exploration as well as buying communications services for the Lunar Pathfinder, which is a small communications satellite set to launch in 2024. According to the ESA, Commercial Lunar Mission Support Services (CLMSS) plans to support future moon exploration and provide strategic positioning for European capabilities. Reports indicate that the success of these initiatives will depend on broader work to ensure their consistency, adaptability, and applicability.

Ryan Duffy, Managing Editor, at Payload Space, a digital media company covering the business and policy of space, weighs in on what he believes are the most significant moves made by the ESA that will impact the future of space exploration in the coming years.

Ryan’s thoughts:

“There’s definitely been chatter and lip service for more privatization of various planks to the European space machine. There are a lot of launch startups with strong financial backing and designs on main flights across the continent. Over the next few years, there’s a semi-private launch quasi-monopoly and satellite incumbents experiencing a lot of consolidation, and on the whole, we’re seeing a lot of exciting new companies starting up and scaling across Europe.

On lunar exploration, I would say NASA’s program is still the one to launch. It’s not just NASA. This week a Japanese company’s preparing to launch the Falcon 9, and if they land the lunar lander, they’ll be the first privately funded spacecraft to land on the moon. So the door’s opening for industry, companies are headed to the moon, making a mistake, but it’s still space agencies in the driver’s Seat.

One program, in ESA to watch, is the Moonlight Initiative, where the agency encourages industry to deploy constellations of communications and navigation satellites into a lunar orbit and to do so cost-effectively, to be agile by bootstrapping off existing payloads and missions that are headed there.”

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