SpaceX has entered into an agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) on plotting of the four European Galileo navigation satellites into orbit using its rocket Falcon 9. It will be the first time that Elon Musk’s company will launch European satellites into orbit carrying classified devices.
ESA’s original plan was to launch the Galileo satellites using its domestic rocket Ariane 6however, it has already experienced several delays and its first launch is not expected until 2024 at the earliest. According to ESA’s Director of Navigation Javier Benedict, the agreement still subject to final approval by the EU Commission and member states.
Under the terms of the deal, SpaceX would launch the satellites from the territory of the USA. It would be the first time that the Galileo device would be put into orbit outside of European territory, unless we count the first test versions launched from Kazakhstan. All other Galileo satellites were launched from the Guyana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, first using Soyuz rockets and later using the Ariane 5 system.
News of the deal isn’t much of a surprise, as it was reported this summer that Europe is pursuing an agreement with SpaceX and United Launch Alliance precisely about the occasional launch of Galileo satellites. Another alternative was supposed to be Russian-made Soyuz rockets, but this was ultimately not possible due to EU sanctions against Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine.
SpaceX launched Europe’s Euclid telescope in July and is set to launch two more EU space probes in the near future. Currently, ESA plans only four launches of the Galileo system with the help of Falcon 9. Musk himself has a strained relationship with the EU – he was recently warned by one of the top representatives of the European Union about the spread of misinformation on his X platform about the war between Israel and Hamas.