The Director General of the European Space Agency, Jean-Jacques Dordain, noted why the surprise entry by the British reusable rocket engineering firm, Reaction Engines, in the competition to replace the Ariane 5 rocket, did not get further:
“Their proposal did not quite fit the requirements of our solicitation so we could not really assess it,” Dordain said. Perhaps Reaction Engines was not quite French enough.
France does, of course, dominate ESA’s launcher programme, but only because it had the foresight to invest the most money into it. However, with France, and to a lesser extent Germany and Italy, taking most of ESA’s launch vehicle work, unfortunately, this might mean that the best space technology is overlooked.
Having said all that, actually ESA has been sufficiently impressed by Reaction Engine’s progress that it now wants to work closely with the firm on its revolutionary air-breathing rocket technology anyway – even if it will not be awarding its next launch vehicle contract to the firm.
Note: The writer of this comment has a small shareholding in the Reaction Engines firm and is also, in a small way, British.