(By Andreas Hasenkamp) In 2018 again, European space industry and politics face a crisis. A look back suggests the following problems with timely adaptation:
One adaptation European nation-states were able to manage, the other one, they failed to. The technical, they managed, the political and market-oriented, they failed. Moreover, they managed the technical, because failure would inevitably have led to fast, total and publicly visible failure and thus to an exit from independent space access. The political intricacies?, by contrast, they were able to conceal – the pressure led to quarrels between them, but never to a breakthrough.
While European nation-states adapted to technical and project-management requirements of space access, they failed to establish structures capable of achieving sustainable prices and, in the long run, structures leading towards a system able to adapt to changing demands.
They met some goals of European integration, that is, including into their space club weaker European states needing help to develop scientific and industrial standards. Doing so, the necessary amount of resources, financial, in particular, was gathered. The widened group of countries lead, over time, to a balanced, yet less flexible system of decision-making and industrial cooperation. Yet, this was one factor limiting the capacity to adapt to needs. Doubts remain, however, whether it is due to this inclusion of weaker states that adaptation to demand failed. Assuming, some major states, France, Britain, Italy, and Germany would have pooled resources – would their respective interests, diverse as they are, have eased a decision-making leading to timely adaptation?
No framework of cooperation has managed to push forward the adaptation, neither ESA nor the EU that intensified its links to ESA since the 1990s.