The Council at Ministerial level for the European Space Agency (ESA) focused on three areas: identifying the best strategy for the future of European launchers to safeguard Europe’s access to space; defining Europe’s space exploration strategy, including ESA’s ongoing participation in the International Space Station (ISS) programme; and finally, the ministers agreeing on objectives to attain concerning ESA’s future development and its role in the European space policy.
The European launch sector, which is both strategic and economically significant, finds itself at crossroads. The Ariane 5 economic model, which has, according to ESA, generated over EUR 50 billion of direct economic benefits for Europe over the past two decades, is now being called into question by new private players in the global launch sector and the evolving size of satellites being launched. The ministers took the decision for the development of the future Ariane launcher, thereby supporting independent, reliable and affordable access to space for the whole of Europe. The flexible and modular solution is called Ariane-6, maximise synergies with the small European Vega-C launcher. It is the most effective technology available in Europe today, while at the same time responding to the rapid changes in the global launch service market.
Regarding space exploration, the ministers made financial commitments to support the ISS exploitation for the period 2015-2017 and to promote research activities. ESA is developing NASA’s new Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Service Module (MPCV-ESM) to contribute to the shared costs of ISS exploitation. The invaluable research activities conducted on board the ISS as well as the robotic mission to Mars “ExoMars” provide the ESA and its international partners with a wealth of valuable experience that will be crucial in planning the next stages of human exploration.
The ministers decided to focus on establishing relations between ESA and the European Union allowing ESA to remain an independent intergovernmental space organisation and to become a long-term partner of choice of the EU. The aim is for the two organisations to work together to define and implement European space policy in collaboration with their respective member states and for them to work with their complementary competences in order to consolidate and reinforce Europe in space.
The excellent and efficient partnership between the Swiss-Luxemburg co-presidency has contributed to the success of this meeting and has laid the groundwork for another success at the next ministerial council meeting scheduled for 2016 in Lucerne, Switzlerand.As a founding member of ESA, Switzerland contributes around CHF 150 million to the agency’s activities every year. This investment allows the federal institutes of technology, universities, universities of applied science and Swiss industry to be involved in space missions at various levels, from cutting-edge scientific research to the development of prototypes, industrialisation and to the development of applications. The scientific excellence and technical innovations realised at national level in the space sector, as well as the close collaboration between research institutes and industry are important factors for economic growth.
Address for enquiries:
State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI
Head of Swiss Space Office
Tel. +41 58 463 17 93
Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research