In a groundbreaking development, SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, has reportedly struck a deal with the European Space Agency (ESA) to launch four navigation and communications satellites into orbit, marking the first-ever partnership between the European Union and the private American space exploration company to transport classified payload.
The collaboration will involve the launch of four of the European Union's highly-secured Galileo satellites from the United States in two phases. The launches will be facilitated using SpaceX's reliable Falcon 9 rocket, according to Javier Benedicto, the Director of Navigation at the European Space Agency. These Galileo satellites are of significant importance as they enable encrypted communications between European governments and are essential for the operation of the European Union's satellite GPS navigation system. The cooperation with SpaceX marks a historic moment in the EU's approach to space endeavors, particularly when it comes to classified information.
This upcoming endeavor will also signify the first time Galileo satellites have been sent into orbit from a location outside the European Union in 15 years. As first-reported by the Wall Street Journal, European and U.S. officials have been working together closely to address the complexities of handling classified information within this project.
The initial decision to select SpaceX for the Galileo satellite launches was influenced by several factors, including the severing of ties between European operators and Russian rockets amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as well as technical issues experienced by other European rocket providers. The SpaceX-ESA deal is still pending approval from the European Union's executive arm, the European Commission, and its member states. The necessary approvals could be granted by the end of the year. Javier Benedicto, the ESA's Director of Navigation, emphasized the importance of this partnership, stating, "It is a matter of robustness. We have 10 satellites that are ready to be launched, and those satellites should be in space, not on the ground." Benedicto also clarified that the space agency does not anticipate using SpaceX for future Galileo satellite launches beyond the four included in this agreement.
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About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.