investigates how practices of European integration shape Europe’s future in outer space and vice versa.


FutureSpace is a 5-year research project at the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at the University of Vienna. The project is led by Assist. Prof. Nina Klimburg-Witjes and supported by a Starting Grant of the European Research Council (ERC).

When we think about European integration practices, we rarely consider how they may extend to outer space. Yet, a new global space race is in full swing, and commercial and government actors worldwide propose bold visions of human futures in outer space. Europe is at the cusp of deciding which role to play in this new space age – and how.

FutureSpace explores how practices of European integration and their underlying values and tensions inform European outer space activities – and how imagined space futures influence socio-political practices on Earth.

We explore these questions by focusing on a core project where these issues are negotiated: the joint European rocket Ariane. FutureSpace‘s main objective is to develop a topography of envisioned European engagements with outer space through an in-depth investigation of various conflicting narratives about the Ariane program. The project develops an innovative multi-sited ethnography that links social science and aerospace engineering to investigate the material and imaginative aspects of infrastructures in transformation.

FutureSpace takes Ariane as a unique lens to provide empirically and theoretically rich insights into the coproduction of envisioned space futures and techno-political orders on Earth. It will offer timely and vital knowledge on the intricate relations between large-scale infrastructures, European political and economic integration practices, and imaginaries of European futures in outer space.


  • Analyze how European political and economic integration is envisioned and performed in the space domain.
  • Investigate how large European socio-technological projects are related to practices and visions of European integration.
  • Explore how collaborative imperatives on the European level influence the development, construction, and organization of the Ariane program.
  • Examine how particular future visions of space affect forms of European collaboration in the present.
  • Scrutinize how global socioeconomic macro trends on Earth and geopolitical relations shape how and by whom these futures are imagined.
  • Inquire how actors mobilize the future in technological, socio-political, and economic choices.
  • Assess how Europe is made and unmade through its space infrastructures.
  • Interrogate how collaborative infrastructure projects are emblematic embodiments of techno-political value constellations.
  • Consider whether the European approach of building collaborative space infrastructures offers alternative rationales to predominant neoliberal/entrepreneurial and nationalistic/governmental approaches towards outer space futures.

Research Approach

FutureSpace uses a symmetrical research approach that attends to material and imaginative aspects of how the future is not only envisioned but rendered concrete in building Ariane and how it materializes in political strategies and production processes and generates new layers of spatial conceptualizations for the management of both, orbital space and the Earth’s surface. The case of Ariane offers a unique window into the emerging social orders and specific values that guide the European approach to space infrastructures and integration.


Conceptually, the project builds on insights from STS, infrastructure studies and social studies of outer space, amongst others. Our aim is to develop a novel topography of geopolitical imaginations about outer space futures – how and for whom these open up, and the spaces they create for societal debates on Earth/Space relations. This project contributes to our understanding of the political, spatial, social, and economic futures that are occupied in the present and how these enable, hinder, or disrupt long-term visions of yet unknown futures.

Research Sites


Which long-term visions are inscribed into the governance of Ariane? The initial phase of the project explores how relations between European integration and visions of the future of Europe in space are negotiated in different European space governance settings, and how integration practices are currently reconfigured in controversies about Ariane.

Value Constellations

How are values shifting in the New Space age? The second stage of the project investigates how ideas and values of “Europeanness” are ascribed to Ariane, how they inform political negotiations, technological choices, and imaginations about the future of European integration and Europe in space.

Engineering Practices

How are imaginaries of European space futures enacted and materialized? The third stage of this research project examines technical controversies as forms of political controversies and vice versa to understand how future visions of Europe in space shape Ariane’s current design and engineering practices, and how both are subject to negotiations and shifting values in the New Space age.