Enabling & Support

Launcher technology

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ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Transportation / Launcher Technology

The very best and most advanced technology is needed to build reliable cost-effective launchers. One good example of this is Ariane 4; thanks to the European expertise and high quality technology that went into its developnment this launcher made 113 successful launches between 1988 and 2003.

Space technology is an area that is constantly developing as engineers and scientists search for cheaper more efficient ways of placing satellites in orbit. Supporting these efforts is an important part of ESA’s mandate and vital if Europe is to maintain its access to space.

Through the Launchers technology activities ESA aims to:

  • support European research and development, maintain knowledge of the key technologies and industrial capabilities needed to develop new launchers and to treat anomalies during the exploitation of the current launchers
  • reduce the cost of European access to space by supporting technological innovation
  • assess advanced technologies and design solutions for reusable launchers, to ensure that Europe will be able to maintain a guaranteed and affordable access to space in the long term
  • ensure that Europe can be a valuable partner in any future international cooperation


Launcher technology is not just about access to space. The research and technology that goes into developing a launcher also assists European industry, creates employment and often benefits daily life. Some examples of spin-offs from launcher technology are:

  • improved braking systems for planes
  • special materials to protect employees working in the metal and glass industry, and nuclear reactor plants
  • safer gas burners in home heaters
  • improved extractor hoods for kitchens

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