European Space Agency defines Ariane and space station plans

The big decisions included a go-ahead for an upgrade on Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket in parallel with design work on a replacement for the early 2020s. Esa nations also approved the project to provide the propulsion unit for Nasa’s new manned capsule, Orion.
In the surprise of the meeting, even the UK put money into this project. It has long stayed out of the agency’s human spaceflight activities, but agreed to a one-off, 20m-euro contribution because of the technology development it could enable in a number of British companies.
"We’re confident our interests will be reflected," UK science minister David Willetts said. Most of the meeting’s agenda had been worked out in advance. Great uncertainty however had remained over how much the 20 nations could commit to space in the midst of the Eurocrisis.
With that context in mind, Esa director-general Jean Jacques Dordain expressed great satisfaction at the outcome.
"Member states recognise that space is not an expense; it’s an investment," he said.
The future of Ariane 5 and how to maintain its competitiveness in the face of growing international competition was the most problematic topic going into the Ministerial Council.
Germany had wanted to upgrade the rocket with a more powerful upper-stage engine to make it more versatile and therefore more attractive to potential customers; the French had wanted to go straight to a next generation launcher that benefits from substantially reduced production costs.