Having spent 9 years and $930 million developing a new solid-fuel rocket to launch small satellites into Earth orbit, France and Italy have decided that working on a new spacecraft that will send humans to explore the moon, Mars and various asteroids is both beneath them and simply too boring.
Two of Europe’s biggest International Space Station contributors have rejected a NASA proposal that would see the European Space Agency (ESA) pay its share of ISS operating costs by building a propulsion module for NASA’s Orion crew transport capsule, saying the proposal is technologically lackluster and unlikely to generate public enthusiasm.
This will, presumably, force NASA to dig even deeper into its pockets to complete work on the mega-expensive Orion, which is not to set to fly with astronauts for another 9 years. Possibly with a negative impact on funding for commercial crew.
The negative view of the service module work is interesting in light of what the two nations have been spending development money on. Italy and France collectively finance about 73 percent of Europe’s new Vega rocket, which launches small payloads into LEO. Total Euopean commitment to Vega, including five qualifying flights, will total $1.45 billion.