It is official. France, Germany and Italy, the three largest contributors to the European Space Agency, have joined forces to compete with SpaceX. At a meeting this week, the ESA agreed to guarantee the future of the next-generation Ariane 6 and Vega-C rocket launchers.

According to Stars and Stripesthe deal follows months of bickering between Paris and Berlin over issues “including intellectual property rights, export licenses and the budget”.

The ESA is asking its member states to contribute €18.5 billion to fund space programs over the next three years – a significant increase of more than 25% over the previous funds.

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The three countries are also proposing to allow the ESA to use European-made micro and mini launchers, which are currently being developed by Germany and France. The ESA previously used SpaceX to launch two science missions.

Will this benefit European start-ups in space technology?

Berlin will reportedly only support future projects from ArianeGroup (a joint venture of Airbus and Safran) provided programs are open to technology from European startups, people familiar with the plans said. It will be interesting to see how this will work out in practice.

Germany is traditionally the largest contributor to the ESA’s budget, with aerospace companies such as Airbus and OHB invested heavily in large-scale European space projects. Will this be enough to support startups and ensure their technology gets a share of the funding and opportunity?

Germany has its eyes on space

While it may not be the first country you think of when you think of space technology, the German space agency hosts the Innospace masters an annual competition for space technology start-ups.

With funders such as OHB and Mercedes-Benz Challenges, the competition is not just academic, with categories for ideas that are already in the innovation or integration phase with existing technologies, systems, services or solutions. This is great news if you want to market real products. And Germany has a number of startups with compelling use cases.