France to mimic Musk with own SpaceX-style launcher, minister says

PARIS, Dec 6 (Reuters) - European space company ArianeGroup will develop a reusable mini-launcher to compete with the likes of Elon Musk's SpaceX, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday.

The launcher "must be able to be operational in 2026", Le Maire said during a trip to the ArianeGroup site at Vernon in Normandy, where the engines of Ariane rockets are tested.

"For the first time Europe...will have access to a reusable launcher. In other words, we will have our SpaceX, we will have our Falcon 9. We will make up for a bad strategic choice made 10 years ago," Le Maire said.

Rebuilding competitiveness in space was one goal set by President Emmanuel Macron in October when he unveiled a 30 billion euro ($34 billion) investment roadmap dubbed "France 2030", aimed at fostering industrial champions and innovation.

Tesla founder Musk's SpaceX achieved the first successful touchdown of its prototype Starship rocket during the latest test flight of the next-generation launch vehicle in May.

The feat marked a milestone for the tech mogul's private rocket company in its development of a reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle to eventually carry astronauts and large cargo payloads to the moon and Mars.

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Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Alexander Smith

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