On 30 November, the Federal Council approved and ratified the Declaration by certain European governments on the Launchers Exploitation Phase of Ariane, Vega and Soyuz from the Guiana Space Centre («Launcher Exploitation Declaration LED 2017»). This Declaration sets up the framework for the exploitation of the European launch vehicles for an extended period until 2035. The ratification concludes the national procedure for acceptance of this declaration by Switzerland.
The text currently in force until 2020, which provides the framework for the exploitation of the Ariane, Vega and Soyuz launchers, is prolonged until 2035 by the LED 2017. The development of the European launcher Ariane began in 1975 at the initiative of a number of states that are members of the European Space Agency (ESA), including Switzerland. At the beginning of the 1980s, these states defined a legal framework and entrusted Arianespace with the operational phase of the Ariane launcher. This framework was revised and extended several times to reflect the development by ESA of the new versions of launchers as well as the evolutions in the sector.
The provisions of the new Declaration reflect the rapid developments of recent years, namely with the advent of many private actors. They also resulted from the decisions of the 2014 ESA Ministerial Council (under the co-residency of Luxembourg and Switzerland), take into account the new Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers and the geographical distribution of the industrial development involved. This is a crucial aspect of the Declaration as all the processes and products developed are used and tested, the competences are improved, thereby ensuring that European space technology does not fall behind.
The most important quality of a launcher is its reliability. Advances in technology and increased performance resulting from ESA internal developments enable the European space industry to meet this challenge. This is evidenced by the fact that the latest versions of Ariane 5 have successfully completed over 100 flights. The ratification of the LED 2017 creates the framework to allow Swiss actors to continue participating to the development and exploitation of ESA launchers. This is the best guarantee that they can continue to participate in future developments and innovations in this sector.