If Europe is to continue to be a world leader in space, then it must look towards the future. Work is already under way to develop a new type of European launcher by 2020. Today’s rockets are very expensive to build and launch. They also take a long time to prepare and, unlike an aircraft, they can only fly once. They are 'expendable'.
ESA is planning to develop a new launcher that will be much cheaper, more reliable and easier to prepare. In order to make this possible, new rocket engines and other advanced technologies must be introduced.
One of the most important decisions to be made is whether Europe’s new launchers will be expendable (like Ariane 5) or reusable (like the U.S. Space Shuttle). Both types will be closely examined before a final decision is made.
Work on the 21st century launcher will begin with studies of different designs. Those that are selected will be tested on the ground and during in-flight trials.
As in the past, it is expected that much of this research and development will result in spin-offs that will improve life on Earth.