ESA ministerial, here’s how Europe will compete with the US and China in space

ESA ministerial, here's how Europe will compete with the US and China in space

The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced the agreement on a budget of almost 17 billion euros for the next three years. All the details on the latest ESA ministerial meeting in Paris

The meeting of the Council at ministerial level of the European Space Agency (ESA) ended yesterday in Paris.

After laborious negotiations, the 22 ESA member states, meeting for two days in the French capital, agreed on a budget of 16.9 billion euros, up 17% on the last three years.

ESA then announced the agreement on a budget of almost 17 billion euros for the next three years, a clear increase compared to the previous one, but still less than the 18.5 billion requested by its general manager Josef Aschbacher.

"This gives Europe the political, scientific and financial means to strengthen its spatial sovereignty between the United States and China," commented French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. “Given the level of inflation, I am very impressed with this result,” Aschbacher added. Space exploration programs will be financed (2.7 billion euros), Earth observation programs in particular to measure and monitor climate change (2.7 billion, space launchers, in particular evolutions of the European Ariane 6 and Vega-C launchers (2.8 billion euros).

And precisely with regard to the latter, before the start of the meeting, France, Germany and Italy signed a joint declaration on the future framework for the use of European launchers. In particular, the three countries, main contributors to ESA, are aiming for a revision of the funding rules in the face of the space ambitions of the United States and China.

All the details.


The economic balance of this ministerial session stands at a total of 16.9 billion euros. The expected figure for the next three years represents an increase of 17% compared to the previous three years, even if it remains below ESA's request. The agency had in fact asked its 22 nations to allocate 18.5 billion euros to finance rocket launches, satellites and Europe's participation in planetary research.

The ESA director-general hailed the resulting 2.4 billion euros more in pledges as a significant achievement given the economic backdrop, and said programs would be adjusted but not abandoned to fill the gap with the required 4 billion.

“We will have to see what can and cannot be done at the same scale as previously planned,” Aschbacher said.


Germany is confirmed as the top contributor to ESA with an amount of 3.5 billion euros, followed by France (3.2 billion) and Italy (3.08 billion) in the next three years. These three countries account for almost 60% of the Agency's budget (57.9%).


Our country's commitment is more than three billion euros over the next five years, with an increase of more than 20% compared to the previous ministerial meeting of 2019. This amount represents approximately 18.2% of the global contribution of the 22 Member States and settles the positioning of Italy in third place strengthened after Germany and France.

In 2019 in Seville, at the previous ministerial, our country contributed 2.2 billion euros – the highest figure ever – to the total subscription of 14.4 billion euros, confirming itself as the third contributor to ESA after Germany ( 3.2 billion) and France (2.6 billion).


Member state ministers have agreed to allocate €2.7 billion to the Earth observation programme. The fund includes funding from FutureEo, the Earth sciences research and development program that harnesses innovation and develops pioneering missions, while promoting innovative ways of using Earth observation data.

In addition, ministers pledged to further develop the space component of the Copernicus programme, the Aeolus-2 operational mission to measure global wind speed and improve weather forecasting. Ministers also pledged to strengthen monitoring of new key climate variables and support climate action. Commitment from the Paris ministerial also on the InCubed-2 initiative to support commercialization in the Earth observation sector; developing a digital twin model of the Earth using cloud computing or high-performance artificial intelligence; continue development of the Truths mission, which will ensure cross-calibration of data from various climate missions that underlie the critical models; expand the network of third-party Earth observation missions; and preserve essential long-term climate datasets.


Furthermore, a significant chapter is also Space Transport, a sector in which the dedicated subscription to the Vega program was confirmed, which supports both improvement activities of the current Vega C version, and the continuation of the development of Vega E until completion. This represents a substantial share of the contribution to ESA programs for the coming years. At the same time, the foundations have been laid for an important Italian contribution to the reusable launchers of the future, underlines the Italian Space Agency (ASI).


The ASI also informs that in the two days of work the Italian delegation worked on the main dossiers that ESA has proposed in this round of negotiations, in particular on the resumption of the Martian exploration program, led by Italy, ExoMars, which will allow the Europe to land on Mars after the forced stop due to the aggression against Ukraine and the consequent interruption of relations with Russia on this mission.

Therefore the European Rosalind Franklin Mars rover, part of the €1.3 billion ExoMars program is now set for launch in 2028, after securing a €360 million investment from European countries, Nature reports.


Finally, the new components of the ESA astronaut corps were also presented. The Class of 2022 will consist of 5 active astronauts and 12 reserve members. Among these for Italy, Anthea Comellini, from Brescia and aerospace engineer, and Andrea Patassa, from Spoleto and captain of the Air Force. The group will join those already in service in ESA which sees among its members the Italians, Samantha Cristoforetti, Luca Parmitano and Roberto Vittori, spearheads of our space system who have already participated in numerous missions on the International Space Station (ISS).

Our country has had a formal commitment from the Italian Space Agency to have one of its two astronauts from the class of 2009, Luca Parmitano or Samantha Cristoforetti, aboard the Lunar Gateway station between 2025 and 2030, according to sources in the 'hexa.

Just a few days ago, on November 16, NASA launched the Artemis 1 rocket , the first unmanned mission of the space program, with destination the lunar orbit, in which ESA also participates. When the Artemis 1 mission concludes with a successful splashdown of the Orion spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean, it will pave the way for astronauts to be aboard the Artemis 2 mission in 2024 in lunar orbit. After that, with the launch of Artemis 3, scheduled for 2025, astronauts will return to walk on the Moon after half a century. The US space agency also plans to one day build a small Gateway space station in lunar orbit to establish a long-term human presence and use the Moon as a test bed for human missions to Mars by the mid-2030s.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Thu, 24 Nov 2022 06:04:22 +0000.