Airbus, Safran to Merge Space Launcher Businesses

Image: Test of Airbus spaceplane
epa04238114 An undated handout released by Airbus Defence and Space shows a model of the planned spaceplane from Airbus Defense and Space. The model successfully completed one of its first test flights. In the future the plane will take up to four tourists into space to experience weightlessness and a spectacular view of earth. The cost for each person on the around two hour long flight is likely to be 200,000 euros. The first commercial flights could take place seven years after the supply of the development funds has been secured. Photo: Airbus Defence and Space/Astrium SAS2014/dpa ATTENTION: Editorial use only - Mandatory Credit "Photo: Airbus Defence and Space/Astrium SAS2014/dpa" EPA/AIRBUS DEFENCE AND SPACE/ASTRIUM SAS2014 / HANDOUT EPA/AIRBUS DEFENCE AND SPACE/ASTRIUM SAS2014 / HANDOUT MANDATORY CREDIT: Airbus Defence and Space/Astrium SAS2014Airbus Defence and Space via EPA

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Airbus Group and French engineering company Safran have agreed to merge their rocket launcher businesses into a new joint venture aimed at helping the European space sector stay globally competitive.

The two companies said in a statement Monday that they have signed a memorandum of understanding for the plan, for which financial figures were not disclosed, and that they hope the venture can start operating by the end of this year. Shares in the companies rose after the news.

The statement says the new venture would focus on developing the next generations of Ariane rockets and safeguarding "Europe's autonomous and reliable access to space."

French President Francois Hollande, whose government helps finance Ariane rockets, gave the proposed venture his blessing at a meeting with representatives of both companies Monday morning.

--- The Associated Press.