The new Meloni government has just had time to take office which, in addition to the questions on the measures to be taken against the high cost of living and skyrocketing energy prices, he is already facing a dispute over the economy of space. The ministerial council of ESA (European Space Agency) will be held in Paris on 22 and 23 November and for the occasion, the representatives of the various European countries will discuss the strategy to be put in place in the coming years in terms of funding and projects. Therefore, the issue of competition between Italy and France on launchers reopens.
A few months ago, France announced the development of MaiaSpace, the new company created by ArianeGroup (5/5 controlled by Airbus and Safran, two aerospace giants controlled by Paris) to create reusable mini-launchers, capable of carrying satellites from 500 up to 1,500 kilograms into orbit. The news had displaced the then head of government, Mario Draghi, for two reasons: first of all, despite the various collaborations between the two countries, also in the space economy (as in the case of the aerospace company Avio), the government French did not think of involving Rome; but the most important one is that this plans to compete with Vega, a plan almost identical to Maia but started by Avioon which the French minister Bruno Le Maire had signed a bilateral agreement with Italy within the framework of the Quirinale Treaty.
Who will take care of the matter
Currently, the executive in office has assigned Vittorio Colao, former minister of technological innovation and digital transition, the delegation of the presidency of the council as responsible for the economy of space. But, according to the Only 24 Hours, Adolfo Urso, Minister of Enterprise and Made in Italy, seems about to take his place and with it also the decision on how to act in the confrontation with France. For Giorgia Meloni this could be a good answer to thepredatory attitude that has always recriminated the French president Emmanuel Macron on large industrial files. The official confirmation has not yet arrived, but the rumor is circulating in Palazzo Chigi that Urso will inherit the presidency of the Comint (the Interministerial Committee for policies relating to space and aerospace research), also having responsibility for the operational management of the funds.
The French Arianspace has an exclusive to commercialize Vega, but with its subsidiary ArianeGroup has launched the competitor Maia. This led the Draghi government to formally ask to involve Italian industry with the aim of developing an alternative to Elon Musk’s Falcon, but a response never followed. The tension for the Paris ministerial, therefore, to the same and not excluded that Avio could evaluate counter-moves, also via the EU Antitrust. The preliminary investigations by former minister Colao had outlined a commitment for Italy to participate in ESA projects for the next five years in the order of 2.8 billion euros. Without considering the resources addressed to ASI (Italian Space Agency), what remains available to be confirmed in the budget law is 1.1 billion for the next three years. A figure that adds to the 5 billion, between the national fund and Pnrr, already allocated by the Comint (Interministerial Committee for Space and Aerospace Research Policies) precisely to focus on launchers.
Urso has already addressed the issue of the space economy as president of Copasir (Parliamentary Committee for the security of the Republic), through a report where we read that microlaunchers represent one of the most critical and most interesting areas from a strategic point of view in prospect. In the last year, in fact, there are four nations (France, Germany, United Kingdom and Spain) that they started own and independent national development programs on micro-launchers. Other European nations, such as Norway, are gearing up, while Italy is still showing a worrying delay. Our country therefore needs identify a clear vision and a national space strategyso as not to be overly influenced by the decisions taken by the other European partners in the aerospace sector.