November 27, 2012
Credit: Credit: NASA
Naples, Italy — Britain has committed €20 million ($26 million) to help pay for Europe’s continued participation with the International Space Station, a one-time payout that could see U.K. technologies fly aboard NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.
Flush with cash from an unprecedented 25% boost to its European Space Agency (ESA) contribution level, Britain’s eleventh-hour move to back ISS may have ended a Franco-German standoff over the so-called NASA barter element, under which Europe has proposed to develop a service module based on its Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) that would fly on Orion.
Prior to Britain’s commitment, France and Germany have been at an impasse on the service module proposal, a development valued at €450 million that could cover Europe’s share of common operating costs aboard the space station in 2017-20, and one that Germany — ESA’s largest financial contributor — steadfastly supports.
“In the interest of maintaining the European commitments to ISS, and because of our belief there are excellent British technologies that can play a significant role in Orion, we will make a once-off cash contribution of €20 million to the ISS,” said David Willetts, U.K. Minister of Universities and Science, who led a British delegation at ESA’s budget ministerial in Naples, Italy, last week.
“We think this is a great opportunity for Britain to contribute technologies, particularly on Orion,” Willetts said.
In return, U.K-based COM DEV Europe and the U.K. division of chemical space propulsion manufacturer American Pacific Corp. will play a role in the service-module development.