Launchers and industry

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.

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

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