Without rockets, there would be no spaceflight. Reliable launchers are required to reach space. That is both a technical and a political challenge if Europe does not want to be dependent on other countries for this facility. The principle of “European Assured Access to Space” has led to the current situation in which Europe has not just two extremely powerful types of rocket (the Ariane 5 and Vega) but has also acquired a large part of the commercial launch market. Two new types of rocket will become available soon, the Ariane 6 and Vega C. These must ensure that Europe's position is safeguarded for the future. Both rockets will be launched from Europe's own base at Kourou in French Guiana.
Rocket construction is unique in two ways: designs are realised that push the absolute limits of technology and materials, and yet at the same time unprecedented accuracy is required. Extremely specialised knowledge and experience are needed to satisfy these two conditions.
The Netherlands has been involved in the construction of European launchers right from the start. It was chosen to construct the engineering structures subjected to heavy loads in view of the aerospace engineering knowledge the Netherlands has. The structures on the Ariane 1-4 between the three rocket stages were built in the Netherlands, as are those on the current Vega rocket type. Since Ariane 5, the Netherlands has supplied the engine mountings for both stages. This will also be the case for the forthcoming Ariane 6. Another important Dutch contribution in the development of European rockets is the ignition systems for the rocket engines.
NSO represents the Dutch interests on ESA’s Programme Council. In this role, NSO is responsible for the funding of projects as well as for ensuring the industrial participation of Dutch companies in ESA's Launcher programmes.