NavigationNextTable of ContentsNext

European, Asian, and Commercial Space Programs


During this decade, Europe broke away from its dependence on the United States for unmanned launchers, but still chose to cooperate with NASA on the STS system and future space station programs for most manned missions. After the CHALLENGER disaster, ESA with its Ariane family of booster vehicles took over the majority of the communication satellites launch business. ESA continued to design, develop and manufacture the boosters, but then gave it over to a new organization, Arianespace, to market its launch services. Europe showed its confidence in its capabilities by also launching its own designed and built interplanetary spacecraft when it sent the Giotti probe to flyby Haley's Comet in 1985. This was an event that NASA was unable to cover, and if it had not been for the Europeans, our understanding of comet activity would not have been as complete without the Giotti mission. France and Germany began to develop more sophisticated communications satellites, and France turned to earth remote-sensing as another application they could market. SPOT I was launched in 1985 in direct competition with the American Landsat series. At first, it did not have the resolution as Landsat, but as the SPOT system evolved, in many ways, it surpassed its American counterpart. Europe had definitely come of age in the 1980s, and a space power to reckon with.


Japan and the PRC continued to advance their own respective space industries. Two more Asian nations joined the space club by building their own satellites and launching them with their own booster, India in 1981, and Israel in 1988. Japan showed the maturity of its industry by building and launching its first interplanetary spacecraft, Sakigake, in 1985 and sending it to flyby Haley's Comet along with the Russian Vega series and the ESA Giotti probe.


Evolution of the communications market continued, with many African and other Asian countries wanting to operate their own regional communication systems. There was a strong effort by the United States and France to develop the earth remote sensing market, but this did not take off as well as expected.



Primary Author: Nicholas M. Short, Sr. email:

Collaborators: Code 935 NASA GSFC, GST, USAF Academy
Contributor Information
Last Updated: September '99

Webmaster: Bill Dickinson Jr.
Site Curator: Nannette Fekete

Please direct any comments to