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Officials of the 20 member countries of the European Space Agency have reached an agreement on the building of a new launcher — Ariane 6 — after Germany gave its green light at a meeting in Luxembourg on 2 December. Until recently, Berlin supported “a progressive evolution of Ariane 5”, writes Le Monde.

The French daily points out that the programme was “put into orbit” 19 years after the Ariane 5 programme was launched in Rome.

Ariane 6’s first launch is scheduled for 2020. Ariane 6 “is poised to be the answer to the American launcher Space X”, which cut launch prices by 30 per cent, bringing them to €48.5m apiece. According to Le Monde, Europeans have to react swiftly if they don’t want to “lose their advantage on the commercial satellite launchers’ market”.