European ministers deliberate on discovery and competitiveness

12/06/05

The Ministers responsible for space in the European Space Agency's 17 Member States and Canada today concluded a two-day meeting of ESA's ruling Council in Berlin by deciding on a coherent plan for discovery and competitiveness for Europe in space.

They accordingly endorsed the continuation of a set of ongoing programmes and agreed to undertake major new initiatives designed to give Europe a clear vision and tangible means to further strengthen its space exploration and exploitation activities. They emphasised the need for Europe to maintain a competitive space sector able to lead the search for new discoveries, guarantee access to strategic data and new services, and consolidate its share of the global commercial market.

The Ministers appreciated the efforts made to heighten European citizens' awareness of space activities and their benefits, thanks in particular to the success of recent European scientific missions such as Huygens and Mars Express. These missions, together with a series of successful Ariane 5 launches, have confirmed once again that combined European skills and efforts enable Europe to succeed in the most challenging of enterprises and achieve a level of excellence for discovery and innovation in the global arena.

The Ministers also noted the increase in the volume and quality of the Agency's relations with its international partners. They recognised that the global scenario in the space sector is evolving rapidly, in particular with increasing numbers of players mastering major space technologies and offering competitive conditions for civil and dual-use applications.

The Ministers reaffirmed the strategic importance of Europe continuously improving its scientific, technological and industrial capabilities in the field of space so as to enable it to better respond to the expectations of its citizens concerning the environment, quality of life and security. They noted that European industry has encountered difficulties in recent years, resulting from a significant downturn on the commercial market as well as the competition from industries operating on the basis of lower production costs; they also took note of the measures taken by industry to improve its position, through difficult reorganisation and concentration processes which have led to a reduction in the volume and distribution of European capabilities.

A major political step was achieved with the approval of an overall European launcher policy ensuring coherence between the launcher and satellite fields.

The Ministers recognised that it is crucial to continuously foster European cooperation on space activity by further developing an overall European Space Policy encompassing ESA, the EU, plus national and industrial programmes, and to allocate the available resources and capabilities to common European initiatives, so as to achieve the critical mass needed to face the worldwide competition.

Decisions on programmes/activities

On the programmatic side, the Ministers took decisions concerning the Agency's mandatory activities (scientific and basic) and optional programmes (Earth observation, telecommunications, satellite navigation, human spaceflight, microgravity, exploration, launchers). Those decisions confirm the ESA countries' commitment to boost progress in space science and to be at the leading edge of discovery, thus supporting the development of competitive services and future applications for European citizens. The decisions taken concern the following:

a) The Agency's mandatory activities: the Level of Resources for 2006-2010 (scientific programme and basic activities)

b) Continuation of ongoing programmes:

  • subscriptions for the Earth Observation Envelope Programme
  • subscriptions for the International Space Station Exploitation Programme Period 2 and the European ELIPS programme Period 2
  • subscriptions for launcher evolutions
  • subscriptions for Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES), focusing on technologies, applications and mission demonstrations

    c) New programmes:

    subscriptions for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) Space Component, also representing a key European contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) initiative

  • subscriptions for the European Space Exploration programme Aurora, comprising its first Exploration mission ExoMars and a Core programme to prepare for future exploration missions
  • subscriptions for the preparation of future launchers
  • subscriptions for the General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) for the preparation of new dedicated technology programmes, focusing on the development of technologies with a view to non-dependence and security, and aimed at preparing and demonstrating new concepts such as formation flying satellites in order to carry out missions of strategic and economic value to space science, Earth observation and new - in particular security-related - areas.

    Source: Eurekalert & others

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