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Is ESA looking for a European Starship?

Europe in Space
Issue 17. Subscribers: 388.
I had another record-setting week with 24 new subscribers signing up. Thank you all so much, and enjoy your first issue. 
The format is a little different today. I will be testing a few new formats over the next two to three weeks to ensure the newsletter stays fresh and interesting. As always, if you’d like to suggest a topic or an improvement, you can reply to this mail.
Correction: In last week’s newsletter, I incorrectly stated that Isar Aerospace has committed to launching from Esrange in Sweden. Isar is testing at Esrange but is committed to launching, for their maiden flight at least, from Andøya Space Center in Norway. Apologies for any confusion I may have caused with this mistake.

Is ESA looking for a European Starship?
ESA published an Invitation To Tenders (ITT) on Monday, 11 July, for its Preliminary Elements of European Reusable and Cost-Effective Heavy Lift Transportation (PROTEIN) initiative.
The ITT projects that in 2035, with the initiation of the European Green Deal, current European launch vehicles will not be able to transport large payloads with the necessary cadence. As a result, the Phase 0/A study aims to propose a preliminary European Heavy Lift Launcher (EHLL) architecture that will be capable of delivering 10,000 t per year to space. This capacity will allow Europe to accommodate large space infrastructures and deep space missions. 
The maximum contract award for this project is €500,000. The deadline for submissions is 29 August at 13:00 CEST.
Ukrainian rocket maker destroyed
Over the weekend, we got the incredibly sad news that a Russian attack had destroyed the well-known Yuzhmash facility in Dnipro, Ukraine. This seems to be the final blow for the RD-843-powered AVUM+ Vega C upper stage. I got a chance earlier today to briefly chat with the head of ESA’s Launchers Development Program to discuss how this affects the operation of the newest European launch vehicle.
Does the recent destruction of the Yuzhmash facility in Ukraine affect the operation of Vega C?
No, what has happened does not affect Vega C at all. We have enough stock to avoid any disruption problem, and we are working on alternatives.
Can you tell me anything about the alternatives you’re looking at?
We are looking at different options, and there are two options for existing engines. Avio is starting also to develop a new engine for in-orbit servicing, which could be used for Vega C as well (Avio CEO Giulio Ranzo described this project as an “innovative orbital propulsion system using green propellant” in an interview with SpaceNews’ Jason Rainbow).
In addition to considering a replacement engine, you are also looking to accelerate the development of Vega E, is that correct?
Yes, of course, we are still considering that as well. We are working on different paths of action. But again, today, we do not see a particular risk of having any discontinuation of Vega C.
Space Rider is scheduled to make its maiden flight towards the end of next year. The vehicle is powered by the same RD-843 engines that power the AVUM+ upper stage. Is there a consideration to utilise that engine for a Vega C launch?
2024, yes (this is a departure from previous statements that saw the agency target late 2023 for the maiden flight). Space Rider will be powered by the RD-843 engine.
Germany purchase service after the trial period - Planet Labs Germany signed a contract with the German Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy to provide the agency with daily, high-resolution satellite data with a focus on crisis response, environment, and nature conservation, and forest and agricultural monitoring. The agreement marks the end of a successful trial period that began in November 2021.
EU trying not to shoot itself in the foot - Netherlands-based Dawn Aerospace has been awarded a €1.4M grant by the EU Commission to study environmentally-friendly replacements for hydrazine. The grant is part of the European Innovation Council’s (EIC) Accelerator programme. The research will be incredibly important as Europe looks to ban hydrazine, a move that could lead to a €2 billion per year problem for the European space industry.
Will I get the sports channels with this? - French satellite antenna equipment manufacturer ANYWAVES has signed a contract with Airbus Defence and Space to supply antennas for 15 satellites ordered by Loft Orbital. According to the company, ANYWAVES has been selected by Airbus to supply more than 70 products for the satellites that will be deployed as part of the Loft Orbital constellation.
More money, more solutions - German microgravity research broker Yuri extended its seed funding round from $2.1M to $4.3M. The extension included the introduction of Verve Venture and Sigma Captial and increased support from Fify Years and APEX Ventures. According to the company, the increase will enable Yuri to “double down” on a strategy to define itself as a biotech company by developing its own products in microgravity.
Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge - A trio of ESA satellites dodged space junk as it fled from violent solar activity while they attempted to unravel the mysteries of Earth’s magnetic field. ESA’s Swarm mission is made up of three satellites, Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. Alpha was forced to get out of the way of a piece of unidentified space junk detected just eight hours before the potential collision. The problem with this was that Alpha, along with Charlie, was in the process of raising its orbit to escape from solar activity threatening the pair. The abruptness of the manoeuvre left Alpha drifting towards Charlie, threatening to limit its ability to collect data until another set of manoeuvres realigned Alpha and Charlie.
No more Apple Maps for the German military - British aerospace and defence company BAE Systems delivered advanced M-Code GPS receivers to Germany for ground-based missions via the Foreign Military Sales process. Under a contract with the US Space Systems Command, Germany has become the first non-US buyer of this advanced GPS receiver technology.
The Dark Universe, that’s where Thanos comes from, right? - ESA’s Euclid telescope was put on a truck in Turin destined for a Thales Alenia Space plant in Cannes, France, for the completion of its final environment tests. The mission will “explore the evolution of the dark universe.” It will do this by creating a 3D map of the universe (with time as the third dimension) by observing billions of galaxies reaching out to 10 billion light years. The telescope had been expected to be launched from Kourou aboard an ArianeGroup Ariane 62 in 2023. However, with the maiden flight of Ariane 6 now expected no earlier than 2023, the launch of Euclid may have to be pushed out.
Started from the bottom, now we’re here - Skyrora announced that it has moved into a new 55,000-square-foot facility in Cumbernauld, Scotland. This marks a huge step for the company has moved from a comparatively tiny 2,000-square-foot facility. The new facility will, according to Skyrora, be capable of producing 16 vehicles per year. Right now, the company is already working on two Skylark L vehicles along with the second and third stage of a Skyrora XL at the new plant.
It finally happened! - The first Vega C blasted off from Kourou, deploying the LARES2 satellite and six cubesats in a flawless maiden flight. The launch was delayed twice, and the eventual liftoff occurred at the last minute of the two-hour launch window.
MORE POWER! - German launch startup Rocket Factory Augsburg announced the completion of a long-duration hot fire test campaign of its Helix rocket engine. The campaign included three tests of 30, 40, and 4 seconds. It also included a brief period of up-throttling to 130% of the nominal design point. This is a significant step for the company on the way to a maiden flight in 2023. RFA will now move on to integrated system testing, which the company hopes to conduct toward the end of the year.
Space agency seeks new partner for long walks on Mars - In a tweet from ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher, the agency announced that cooperation with Roscosmos on the ExoMars rover and lander mission had been officially terminated. Cooperation on the mission has been indefinitely suspended by ESA following Russia’s attack on Ukraine earlier this year. New insights on the way forward with “other partners” is expected to be revealed on 20 July.
This is just a test - ArianeGroup revealed that combined testing of the Ariane 6 at its facility in Kourou had progressed with the lowering of the central core between four P120C boosters. The purpose of these tests is to ensure all hardware and procedures involved with the launch operate together as expected. “The first encounter between Ariane 6 and its launch pad is a particularly important and symbolic step, after years of parallel development at the factories in Europe and on this exceptional construction site,” said ArianeGroup CEO André-Hubert Roussel.
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Andrew Parsonson

A weekly European spaceflight update with exclusive infographics, in-depth analysis, and a review of the week's biggest announcements.

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