European Space Agency approves Ariane 5 rocket upgrade

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European Space Agency (Esa) member states have resolved key issues at their ministerial council and agreed a 10.1bn euro (£8.1bn) programme of activities.

The big decisions included approval for an upgrade to Europe's Ariane 5 rocket in parallel with design work on a replacement for the early 2020s. Backing was also given to the project to provide the propulsion unit for Nasa's new manned capsule, Orion.

The UK, which has long stayed out of the agency's human spaceflight activities, agreed to a one-off 20m euro (£16m) contribution because of the development in technology it could enable in a number of British companies.

Jonathan Amos reports from Naples.

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