Enabling & Support

Space Transportation and industry

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ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Transportation

Supporting European industry has always been an important part of ESA’s strategy. When an Ariane launcher heads into space more than 12 000 Europeans, working in more than 100 European companies, can be proud of having contributed to such an impressive event.

In 2003, after the decisions made by the ESA Council, the roles and responsibilities of the public and private sector were redefined to achieve a better balance between the two sectors:

  • The design, development and manufacture of launchers is carried out by a number of industries throughout Europe. A single industrial prime contractor for each launcher is responsible for the whole process.
  • Arianespace, the European space transportation company linked to ESA by a Convention, is in charge of executing the operational launcher exploitation phase, including procurement from the launcher system prime contractor, and the marketing and launch of launchers.
  • ESA is responsible for the overall management of launcher programmes by making the best use of the skills available in the national space organisations of ESA Member States.


These measures have streamlined operations, improved transparency and prevented duplication.

Furthermore, in 2014, the decision of ESA Council at Ministerial level on the development of Ariane 6 was accompanied by a change in the governance of the European launcher sector, which is now based on a more balanced sharing of responsibility, cost and risk from design to exploitation by ESA and industry.

This gives industry considerably more responsibility in designing the new launcher, managing the industrial organisation, determining the needs of commercial customers and exploiting the product commercially. In turn, industry is required to contribute to the development costs and to increase its accountability in the commercial exploitation.

The new governance approach will significantly contribute to delivering an Ariane 6 to the launch pad with the same launch capability but at 50% of the cost of the current Ariane 5.

The ESA Member States that contribute to ESA’s Launchers Programme are also involved in the manufacture of Ariane and Vega launchers. They benefit from their investment in the programme through contracts awarded to their space industry.

Ariane 6 industrial organisation
Ariane 6 industrial organisation

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