UPDATE July 20: This story was updated to reflect the comments of Daniel Neuenschwander, director of launchers at the European Space Agency.

PARIS — The German government, doubling down on a priority it disclosed at last year’s European Space Agency (ESA) ministerial council, has kicked off a two-year competition among three German small-launcher startups with the guarantee of 25 million euros ($28.5 million) in cash awards.

The three companies that entered the Microlauncher competition — HyImpulse Technologies GmbH, OHB SE . . .

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