SpaceX Hired for European Launches to Bypass Russia

After Europe began talks with SpaceX to avoid using Russia’s rockets, the continent’s space agency has officially selected the U.S. company for two of its upcoming launches.

SpaceX is being commissioned by Europe to perform two rocket launches in place of the Russian Soyuz rocket, according to a statement from the European Space Agency (ESA) on Thursday, reports Reuters.

The launches are set to take place in 2023 and 2024, and will send the Euclid space telescope and the Hera probe as a latter part of the NASA Dart spacecraft mission, which had its path successfully altered in a test of a planetary defense system.

“The member states have decided that Euclid and Hera are proposed to be launched on Falcon 9,” said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.

The news comes after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, causing sanctions to the invading country. In response, Russia barred other countries from using its Soyuz rocket.

The Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer (EarthCARE) payload was also set to ride on the Soyuz rocket, but will instead be launched on Europe’s Vega C rocket, according to Aschbacher.

ESA still requires backup launch alternatives for two other missions that were planning to use the Soyuz rocket.