LAMPOLDSHAUSEN, Germany — The French government’s announcement that it would spend 400 million euros ($428 million) of its France 2030 technology-investment program to purchase launches from four French startups met with astonishment and rancor in much of the rest of Europe.

In Britain, Germany, Spain, Norway and Sweden, the reaction has been that France was buying itself a victory in the coming European Launcher Challenge being managed by the 22-nation European Space Agency (ESA).

The Challenge is to select candidate rockets . . .

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