A planned co-operative deal between Snecma's SEP rocket engine division and Pratt &Whitney to develop jointly a new cryogenic upper stage engine for US and European rockets has been abandoned by the European Space Agency (ESA) for "technical and industrial" reasons.

Sources say the deal was blocked by German concerns that the export market for launches could be seriously compromised because of US Government technology export restrictions. ESA director general Antonio Rodota says Europe will go it alone. "We made good progress in the talks," he says, adding "there is still the hope that we might co-operate in the future. But time is short and we need to get on with development."

Snecma's Vinci engine, which was approved by ESA's 1999 ministerial meeting to power the upgraded Ariane 5, is scheduled to be available for the launcher by 2003. Pratt &Whitney had a similar timescale for its RL50 engine for the Delta IV and Atlas V launchers.

Meanwhile, a special category of ESA membership has been approved for Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania. The four will become "European Co-operating States", allowing indirect access to ESA programmes and taking account of states "not having the same financial capabilities as the existing member states".

Source: Flight International