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Taking on SpaceX: Why Germany is Building Its Own Spaceport

Private companies like SpaceX are taking on established space agencies. Germany is hoping to shore up its position by opening a spaceport on the North Sea.

Satellite data is growing evermore crucial to a range of economic sectors, from digitalized industrial production to self-driving vehicles. 

This demand is pushing the international space race to take on new dimensions, particularly in the private sector. Companies like SpaceX, with its huge fleet of satellites and rockets, represent dangerous competition for established space-faring countries.

Germany is hoping its construction of a new spaceport, expected to launch its first rockets in April, can better its position.

What will the new spaceport look like?

Germany’s new facility will not be land-based, like the Cape Canaveral space station in the United States or Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

Instead, the spaceport will launch from a platform in the North Sea. 

To start, Dutch company T-Minus will launch a rocket from the German-Offshore Spaceport Alliance (GOSA) mobile platform.

The launch pad will be built some 350 kilometers from the coast in the remotest corner of Germany’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The Federation of German Industries (BDI) announced the location at a space congress in Berlin.

Each launch will be supervised by a control ship and a new multifunctional Mission Control Center in Bremen, Germany. The ship’s home port will be located in Bremerhaven, a port city located next to Bremen.

What is the spaceport worth?

In the future, the North Sea platform will be used for European microlaunchers — rockets loaded with small satellites — capable of carrying up to one ton into low-Earth orbits.

During a two-week test phase, up to four rockets with a maximum length of seven meters and a flight altitude of up to 50 kilometers will be launched.

The BDI introduced its “NewSpace” initiative four years ago with hopes of seeing Germany profit from the booming commercialization of space travel

The plans are underpinned by a market worth billions: NewSpace could reduce the high cost of launch vehicles.

According to a new study by BDI and consultant Roland Berger, the market for activities underpinned by space technology will grow by 7.4% annually to €1.25 trillion ($1.32 trillion) by 2040.

Why does Germany need a spaceport?

“It is true for more and more industries: If you are not at the forefront in space, you will not be a technology leader on Earth,” BDI President Siegfried Russwurm said.

The platform is intended to meet growing demand in the small commercial satellites market. Germany also needs its own access for defense purposes, he said. Germany has a “dangerous dependency” on others for space infrastructure and access, he added.

“Four times more satellites will be launched in this decade than in the previous one. This leads to bottlenecks in land-based spaceports,” Sabine von der Recke, a member of GOSA’s management board, said.

Further European launch infrastructure is critical, she added.

Source : DW

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