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EU could ramp up space exploration in response to SpaceX, China success, report says

It could include a higher investment in Arianespace and a fund for space startups.

Ariane 6
An artist's view of the Ariane 6 launch vehicle.

The European Union could be investing more heavily in rockets, satellites and space exploration, according to a report. European Commissioner Thierry Breton told Reuters on Sunday the EU wants to keep up with the US and China in the space realm, especially given SpaceX's recent success in launching NASA astronauts to the International Space Station and China's moon mission last year.

The EU is set to sign a €1 billion ($1.12 billion) deal with Arianespace -- a commercial rocket launcher that operates out of France -- for more involvement in spaceflight innovation, the report says.

"Space is one of Europe's strongpoints, and we're giving ourselves the means to speed up," Breton told Reuters, adding the EU will be looking to reusable rockets. "SpaceX has redefined the standards for launchers, so Ariane 6 is a necessary step, but not the ultimate aim: we must start thinking now about Ariane 7."

Ariane 6 is a rocket launcher developed by the European Space Agency. Its first flight was scheduled for 2020 but it has yet to take place.

Breton is reportedly pushing for €16 billion ($18 billion) in additional funds to be set aside for space exploration in the European Commission's next budget, with €1 billion to be used for a European Space Fund that would help space startups.

The EU is also looking to launch a satellite system to provide high-speed internet across the continent, Reuters said, much like the Starlink satellites being launched by SpaceX.

Commissioner Breton's team didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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