No one country can claim monopoly or sovereignty of the vastness of outer space. They can, however, claim superiority in the technologies that will take equipment and humans there. For the past years, space tech news has mostly revolved around SpaceX and, to a lesser extent, Blue Origin, both US companies. Other countries like China and even Russia aren’t sitting still and now the European Commission is making a move as well. It has just greenlit a three-year project to develop its own reusable rockets.
This is an almost complete U-turn from the sentiments and opinions in Europe back when SpaceX was still at its infancy. Then again, the entire rocket industry seemed to think Musk was bonkers and that landing rockets vertically would never be viable. SpaceX, of course, proved it could be done and now other companies and countries are scrambling to recreate that success.
Europe, however, had a slightly different objection to the idea of reusing rockets. Compared to the US and China, the region is relatively small and launched very few rockets a year. Reusing those rockets would, in other words, put rocket manufacturers out of business.
The new Retropropulsion Assisted Landing Technologies project or RETALT, however, basically acknowledges that it’s the unavoidable future. It also admits that Europe is only just getting started in developing something that’s already state-of-the-art in the US. It doesn’t directly address the economical repercussions of the technology but that seems to be where the market is heading anyway.
The Commission has allotted 3 million EUR ($3.4M) for RETALT. It isn’t shy to admit that one of its goals is to pretty much replicate the Falcon 9. It does, however, also have plans on developing a single-stage-to-orbit rocket to get ahead of other regions.