ESA Corporate News
ESA Corporate NewsSome ESA Test & Support Facilities References
• June 16, 2022: ESA has put forward its ambitious plans for the next three years and beyond to increase European autonomy, leadership and responsibility in space. 1)
- Spacefaring nations worldwide are investing heavily in space and Europe must raise its game to maintain its position and reap the economic and scientific benefits while working to protect life on Earth from space hazards, Josef Aschbacher, Director General of ESA, told delegates to the ESA Council Meeting held on 14 and 15 June.
- The war in Ukraine has curtailed decades of peaceful international cooperation and highlighted how urgently Europe needs to further develop its own space capabilities.
- It is essential that Europe always has access to space in order to monitor and mitigate climate change, to provide secure communications that are under European control, and to offer rapid and resilient responses to any crises in Europe and beyond, for example.
Figure 1: The Road to CM22 – Europe’s Space Ambition. ESA’s Council at Ministerial level will take place in November 2022, a crucial milestone as Europe sets out its ambitions and plans for space activities in the coming years and decades (video credit: ESA)
- Every three years, ESA proposes new projects and programmes to its Member States to boost the use of space for the benefit of European citizens. The plans for the next three years are thoughtful, considered and pragmatic. They are the result of careful evaluation, and are driven by ESA’s ambition to realise the full potential for space to improve life on Earth and to position Europe and ESA as a global space power by 2035.
- Josef Aschbacher, Director General of ESA, said: “People on Earth want a safer, cleaner world, free from the dangers caused by climate change, by war and political unrest, dangers caused by natural disasters, or caused by the careless use of natural resources. Europe’s achievement in space are excellent – but we can do much more. ESA wants to expand Europe’s ambitions and successes in space for the decades ahead.”
- Space missions stimulate technological innovation and scientific discovery. By committing to the missions of the future, Europe commits to fulfilling its potential and retaining its talent.
- ESA will also help to answer the very human need to understand our place in the Universe and why and how the cosmos is as it is. Today, all Europeans have benefited from ground-breaking missions that were commissioned decades ago. Now, ESA wants to prepare missions that will make the next generation proud, inspire those who will build a science-based economy and advance scientific understanding for further generations to come.
Figure 2: ESA Ambition logo. Europe faces unprecedented societal, economic and security challenges. Space has enormous untapped potential to help tackle these challenges and future crises, while simultaneously creating jobs and boosting innovation in the European space industry. European leaders must act and simultaneously safeguard the environment, create jobs and prosperity for their citizens, and bolster Europe’s strategic position in a changing geopolitical world while recovering from the pandemic (image credit: ESA)
- Everyone relies on space every day. ESA is working to ensure that essential services are secure and that the objects that orbit the Earth are well managed.
- Meanwhile the rise of commercial use of space is transforming the space industry worldwide, fostering innovation and creating jobs and prosperity.
- Now that the June ESA Council Meeting has been completed, the agency has taken another step along the road to the ESA Council of Ministers meeting that will take place in November and will set the agency’s priorities for the next three years.
• May 27, 2022: With more than 5000 participants, 240 science sessions and over 1300 oral presentations, ESA’s Living Planet Symposium comes to a close with record-breaking numbers. Held on 23-27 May at the World Conference Center in the German city of Bonn, the symposium brought together world-class scientists, business leaders, representatives from space agencies and international organisations and industry from around the world. Throughout the week, they showcased the latest advances in Earth observation and highlighted the essential role of Earth observation for decision making regarding the ongoing climate crisis. As the week draws to a close, we look back at some of the highlights of the week. 2)
Figure 3: Living Planet Symposium opening address (image credit: ESA, Jürgen Mai)
- As we reach a crucial junction in the global response to the climate crisis, monitoring the changes in Earth’s system is more important than ever. European satellites orbiting Earth provide up-to-date information about our changing world, giving essential input to international climate policymakers. Data from satellites fuel many critical applications and research within the Earth observation community.
- This extraordinary week proved how Earth observing satellites can take the pulse of our planet from space and help us take action to protect it. The event was organised in partnership with the German Aerospace Agency (DLR) and welcomed local representatives including Katja Dörner the Mayor of Bonn, Anna Christmann, Federal Government Coordinator of the German Aerospace Policy and Ophelia Nick, Parliamentary State Secretary, with the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
Figure 4: In her closing remarks, ESA’s Simonetta Cheli, Director of Earth Observation Programmes, highlighted that what has become evidently clear at this year’s symposium is the fact that Europe has firmly decided to step up its ambition in space, to reflect its political and economic standing, and to take a leading role in the global space community. (image credit: ESA, Jürgen Mai)
- In her closing remarks today, ESA’s Simonetta Cheli, Director of Earth Observation Programmes, said, “The Living Planet Symposium has highlighted the fact that Europe has firmly decided to step up its ambition in space, to reflect its political and economic standing, and to take a leading role in the global space community.
- What has become evidently clear at this year’s symposium is the fact that the European Earth observation space sector fully embraces the digital revolution, tackles urgent societal challenges such as the climate crisis and puts forward ambitious initiatives for the European Green Deal. ESA’s Earth observation package for the upcoming Ministerial Council addresses all of these areas.
- “On a personal level, my favourite part was seeing so many enthusiastic people together again at this vibrant event. It brings me great joy to see the very large number of researchers, young professionals and students taking part in this conference. You are the future of Earth observation, and we count on your ideas and passion to ensure a bright future for Earth observation in Europe.”
• April 27, 2022: ESAWebTV caught up with the DG (Director General) while he was in Florida for the Crew-4 launch. Here’s what he had to say. 3)
Figure 5: ESA DG talks about the future of human space exploration (video credit: ESA)
• April 13, 2022: Following the Russian aggression against Ukraine, ESA’s Director General has initiated a comprehensive review of all activities currently undertaken in cooperation with Russia and Ukraine. The objective is to determine the possible consequences of this new geopolitical context for ESA programmes and activities and to create a more resilient and robust space infrastructure for Europe. 4)
- The ESA Council on 13 April acknowledged the following findings and took the following decisions.
- ESA will discontinue cooperative activities with Russia on Luna-25, -26 and -27. As with ExoMars, the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the resulting sanctions put in place represent a fundamental change of circumstances and make it impossible for ESA to implement the planned lunar cooperation. However, ESA’s science and technology for these missions remains of vital importance. A second flight opportunity has already been secured on board a NASA-led Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) mission for the PROSPECT lunar drill and volatile analysis package (originally planned for Luna-27). An alternative flight opportunity to test the ESA navigation camera known as PILOT-D (originally planned for Luna-25) is already being procured from a commercial service provider.
- Meanwhile, a way forward for the PILOT precision landing and hazard avoidance technology is already being defined. This capability is needed for European Lunar exploration activities such as the European Large Logistic Lander (EL3), proposed for decision at CM22. Further, the ESA Director General and the President of the Japanese agency JAXA last week signed an agreement to fly ESA’s EMS-L, the Exospheric Mass Spectrometer instrument, on board the JAXA/ISRO LUPEX lunar rover mission. This adds to the growing list of European experiments flying to the Moon in the next few years.
- Although all the elements of the ExoMars Rover mission (the launcher, carrier module, descent module and Rosalind Franklin rover) have now passed their flight readiness reviews, because cooperation with Roscosmos on ExoMars has been suspended, the mission will not be launched in September this year. Instead, a fast-track study is now under way led by Thales Alenia Space of Italy to assess options for the way forward.
• April 12, 2022: ESA’s new Space Safety Centre is a hub for activities protecting our planet from a raging star, risky asteroids and defunct satellites. 5)
Living close to an active star, in a Solar System filled with ancient and fast-moving asteroids, on a planet that is becoming increasingly surrounded by discarded satellites and their debris, comes with a plethora of challenges. ESA’s Space Safety programme carries out the activities necessary to mitigate and prevent the effects of these hazards.
Inaugurated on 12 April, the new Space Safety Centre is a dedicated facility for the teams monitoring and responding to space weather. Electromagnetic radiation and charged particles hurled into space by the Sun can disrupt or damage active satellites, human space explorers and infrastructure on Earth such as power grids.
Figure 6: ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher and Director Rolf Densing inaugurate new Space Safety Centre (image credit: ESA / J. Mai)
“This new ESA facility demonstrates the ambition of Europe to have its critical missions in orbit and civil infrastructure on ground well protected against hazards from space,” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.
“In close cooperation with its Member States, ESA is contributing to more autonomous and resilient space programmes, today and in the future.”
By monitoring the health of data arriving on Earth from our satellite instruments and from other space weather services, teams at ESA help keep spacecraft and astronauts safe from our star’s unpredictable outbursts, while contributing to the protection of civil infrastructure, like power grids, on ground.
Figure 7: As we discover more about the brilliant scale and nature of the Universe, planet Earth’s blue oceans, green forests and glistening city lights appear even more unique, and even more fragile. Many hazards have been identified originating in space, which although unlikely, continue to pose real dangers to our way of life, and in the worst cases to human health and safety. Only in the past decades have we had the opportunity to understand the potential perils of our position in our Solar System, and as technologies continue to advance we are entering a period in which we can actually act. - However, as technologies advance, so too does our dependence on them, making us more vulnerable to both human-made and natural threats in space (image credit: ESA)
Building autonomy for Europe
The Space Safety Centre is a first for ESA and provides a dynamic environment where next-generation space-weather capabilities, tools and models will be developed, tested and evaluated in close cooperation with European institutes and industry.
The Centre also supports the provision of space weather information and warnings to ESA-operated space missions. It will work in close coordination with the Agency’s Space Weather Services Network, providing timely and reliable space weather information to European spacecraft operators, agencies, institutions, researchers and commercial sectors affected by solar activity including transportation, navigation and power grid operators.
Teams at the Centre will monitor data received from ESA’s space weather sensors, comprising, today, payloads onboard PROBA-2 and hosted on missions flown by other agencies and, in future, additionally from the Vigil and Aurora missions and from new nanosatellite missions.
In the future, it will also be used to monitor the utilisation of data acquired by ESA’s three upcoming space safety missions.
Figure 8: Solar Orbiter captures giant solar eruption. The Full Sun Imager of the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager on board the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft captured a giant solar eruption on 15 February 2022. Solar prominences are large structures made of tangled magnetic field lines that keep dense concentrations of solar plasma suspended above the Sun’s surface and often take the form of arching loops. This is the largest solar prominence eruption ever observed in a single image together with the full solar disc (image credit: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team/ESA & NASA)
“The stand-up of this Centre at our ESOC mission control centre demonstrates leadership and is a clear step as ESA works to boost European autonomy in space,” says Rolf Densing, ESA’s Director of Operations.
“A major space weather event could cause in excess of €15 billion damage in Europe. We cannot prevent space weather, but costly ground infrastructure and satellites – and the critical services they provide – can be protected through forecasts, timely warnings and real-time information.”
“In close cooperation with its Member States, ESA is contributing to more autonomous and resilient space programmes, today and in the future.”
By monitoring the health of data arriving on Earth from our satellite instruments and from other space weather services, teams at ESA help keep spacecraft and astronauts safe from our star’s unpredictable outbursts, while contributing to the protection of civil infrastructure, like power grids, on ground.
• March 17 2022: As an intergovernmental organisation mandated to develop and implement space programmes in full respect with European values, we deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine. While recognising the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its Member States. 6)
ESA’s ruling Council, meeting in Paris on 16-17 March, assessed the situation arising from the war in Ukraine regarding ExoMars, and unanimously:
a) acknowledged the present impossibility of carrying out the ongoing cooperation with Roscosmos on the ExoMars rover mission with a launch in 2022, and mandated the ESA Director General to take appropriate steps to suspend the cooperation activities accordingly;
b) authorised the ESA Director General to carry out a fast-track industrial study to better define the available options for a way forward to implement the ExoMars rover mission.
- Following the decision by Roscosmos to withdraw their personnel from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, all missions scheduled for launch by Soyuz have been put on hold. These concern essentially four institutional missions for which ESA is the launch service procurement entity (Galileo M10, Galileo M11, Euclid and EarthCARE) and one additional institutional launch.
- Consequently, the ESA Director General has initiated an assessment on potential alternative launch services for these missions, which will include a review of the Ariane 6 first exploitation flights. A robust launch manifest for ESA missions’ launch needs, including for spacecraft originally planned for launch by Soyuz from Kourou, will be submitted to Member States.
The International Space Station
- The International Space Station Programme continues to operate nominally. The main goal is to continue safe operations of the ISS, including maintaining the safety of the crew.
- Based on a first analysis of technical and programmatic impacts on all other activities affected by the war in Ukraine, the Director General intends to convene an extraordinary session of Council in the coming weeks to submit specific proposals for decision by Member States.
• February 16, 2022: European leaders today confirmed their ambitious plans to work closely together to accelerate Europe as a world leader in space during a series of high-level meetings held in Toulouse, France. 7)
- Under the plans, ESA, the EU and their member States are uniting to ensure that Europe fully realises the enormous untapped potential for space to tackle the urgent and unprecedented societal, economic and security challenges it faces.
- The French Presidency of the European Space Agency and the European Union chaired the meetings, reflecting the close and growing cooperation between the EU and ESA.
- European leaders reaffirmed their strong political support for the three “accelerators” identified by ESA to address challenges – from the climate change induced crisis and their consequences to threats to crucial European infrastructure in space and on Earth.
- “Space for a green future” aims to use data derived from Earth observation satellites to help Europe act to mitigate climate change and to support reaching a carbon-neutral economy by mid-century. “Rapid and resilient crisis response” seeks to better use space data, cognitive cloud computing and intelligent interconnectivity in space to support those in charge to provide the vital responses to crisis on Earth. Thirdly the “protection of space assets” will contribute to prevent damage to the European space infrastructure and avoid disruption to its economically vital infrastructures such as power supplies and communications links due to space weather conditions.
- The three ESA accelerators fully complement the EU Secure Connectivity initiative and the EU proposal on Space Traffic Management.
- Individual ESA member and associated States will be invited to champion one or more of the three accelerators or elements within them.
- Government ministers in charge of space activities also mandated the ESA Director General, Josef Aschbacher, to initiate a discussion on a human exploration “inspirator”, which is an essential sovereign capability among all the major space powers except Europe. A high-level advisory group will be established; it will report progress to the next ESA Council of Ministers held in November 2022 ahead of a space summit held in 2023.
- Josef Aschbacher said: “I am very happy to accept President Macron’s proposal to establish a high-level advisory group on ‘human space exploration for Europe’. This decision will shape what Europe will look like in the decade to come. We have to involve experts from all walks of life and mainly from non-space, for example historians, economists, geo-political experts, explorers on Earth, and philosophers to fully grasp all its implications and help us take the right decision.”
- Ministers also expressed their support to increase Europe’s ambition in space science through a proposed “inspirator” of a sample-return mission to search for extra-terrestrial life on one of the icy moons orbiting Jupiter or Saturn.
- Ministers acknowledged the coherence and the links among the three accelerators and two inspirators. They endorsed seed funding of these at the next ESA Council of Ministers, while encouraging ESA to identify other major sources of funding.
- Finally, they approved the principle of holding another space summit in 2023, to be attended by heads of governments of the 30 countries that are members of the EU, ESA or both.
- Josef Aschbacher said: “Europe faces urgent and unprecedented societal, economic and security challenges – from climate change causing floods and fires to cyberattacks on our vital infrastructure. Working closely with the EU and private companies, ESA will ensure that Europe fully realises the potential for space to contribute to tackling these challenges. At the same time, Europe must seize the opportunity to join the leading spacefaring nations through developing a sovereign capability for human exploration and bring Europe’s space ambitions to the next level.”
Figure 9: Family portrait at Space Summit 2022, Toulouse, 16 February 2022 (photo credit: Hamilton de Oliveira/MEFR)
• February 10, 2022: Of the 22,523 valid astronaut applications received by ESA, the largest number came from France (7087) followed by Germany (3695) and the United Kingdom (2000). The astronaut with a physical disability vacancy attracted a further 257 applications. 8)
- Following a comprehensive screening phase, 1361 people were invited to phase two of ESA’s astronaut selection. This is a full day of psychological performance testing at a facility in Europe.
Figure 10: ESA astronaut applications by Member State. Infographic showing the number of applications to ESA's 2021-22 astronaut selection and the number of applicants moving through to phase two split by Member State and gender (image credit: ESA)
- The number of astronaut applicants invited to phase two has also been broken down by Member and Cooperating State. It comprises 530 women and 831 men and at least three candidates from every Member State. This reflects the high caliber of applications received across the board.
- In addition, 27 candidates who applied for the astronaut with a disability vacancy have been invited to phase two.
- Candidates who are successful at phase two will go on to participate in a set of psychological interviews and group tests ahead of medical testing. Those who successfully pass each of these selection stages will be invited to recruitment interviews. ESA’s new class of astronauts and reserve astronauts is expected to be announced in autumn 2022.
• January 24, 2022: European leaders will reaffirm plans to launch Europe on a world-leading trajectory during a high-level space summit to be held on 16 February in Toulouse, France. 9)
- Urgent action is needed to tackle the unprecedented societal, economic and security challenges faced by Europe – from the climate crisis and its consequences to threats to crucial infrastructure in space and on Earth.
- Space has enormous untapped potential to help tackle these challenges and future crises, while simultaneously creating jobs and boosting innovation in the European space industry – and it is vital for Europe to catch up with other space-faring nations such as the US and China.
- The space summit seeks to identify how best to proceed. It will consist of two parts chaired by the French Presidency of the European Union, who is also chairing the ESA Council at ministerial level, reflecting the close cooperation between the EU and ESA.
- The first part will be an informal EU Competitive Council Meeting on Space, attended by government ministers and their representatives from EU member states. Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market in charge of space, and Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General, are due to address the meeting.
- The second part will be an ESA Council Meeting at ministerial level, attended by government ministers and their representatives from ESA Member States.
- Leaders attending the space summit are due to discuss the EU strategy for secure connectivity and the EU strategy for space traffic management. They will also exchange views on ESA’s three “accelerators” identified by Josef Aschbacher, who has collaborated with a high-level advisory group to raise Europe’s space ambitions to the next level.
- “Space for a green future” aims to use data gleaned from Earth observation to help Europe act to mitigate climate change. “Rapid and resilient crisis response” seeks to better use space data and intelligent interconnectivity in space to empower vital responses to crises on Earth and complements the EU’s strategy for secure connectivity. The “protection of space assets” will contribute to prevent damage to the European space infrastructure and any disruption to its economically vital infrastructures such as power supplies and communications links. It will contribute to a safer space and will be undertaken in collaboration with the EU’s strategy for space traffic management.
- As part of its preparations for the future, ESA is also developing two “inspirators” to raise European ambitions in human space exploration and in the search for extra-terrestrial life.
- Leaders at the summit will consider how best to prepare for the longer-term future. Human exploration is an essential sovereign capability among all the major space powers, except Europe. Creating the ability for European astronauts to explore space on board European vehicles developed through innovative partnerships with European space companies will ensure the future of Europe in space and provide Europeans with the same opportunities as the citizens of the other main spacefaring nations.
- Josef Aschbacher said: “The societal challenges ahead of Europe are widespread, significant and urgent. Addressing them effectively will require bold decisions and dedicated efforts on multiple fronts. Space technologies, data and services are uniquely positioned to make a difference and provide a concrete response to present and upcoming challenges. We must act now and accelerate the use of space in Europe.”
- The summit is a key milestone in the Agenda 2025 journey set out in March 2021. It follows an Intermediate Ministerial Meeting held in November 2021, where the three accelerators and two inspirators were first presented and endorsed by ESA Member States ministers through the “Matosinhos Manifesto”.
Figure 11: Members of Team Europe at the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. Europe can achieve much more when nations work together – ESA was responsible for launching the James Webb Space Telescope (image credit: ESA-CNES-Arianespace/Optique Video du CSG - M.Guillon)
• January 3, 2022: A GSTP (General Support Technology Program ) activity with Syntony, France, has taken an existing product used to help signals from satellites reach underground and developed and improved it for navigation purposes. 10)
- The product, called SubWave, is for underground geolocation where GNSS signals from satellites cannot be received. It allows the reception of navigation signals with the normal user’s smart phones underground, for example in metro or road tunnels. But there is currently a drawback, which can lead to significant errors in the position being shown.
Figure 12: SubWave, is for underground geolocation where GNSS signals from satellites cannot be received (image credit: ESA)
- The improved system, called SubWave+, has significantly reduced these errors, developing this system into a marketable product. SubWave+ is a dramatic improvement in the system as it brings the accuracy from 10m down to few meters.
- It extends the location service to cover metro or subway stations and their tunnels, compared to the first release of the product, at an affordable price. Using SubWave+ in a tunnel offers a cost reduction compared to the installation of SubWave, since it doesn’t require the system to have to split the area into many zones.
- This technological step is designed to be compliant with any GNSS receivers and enable a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor. The developed product is currently being actively sold to world wide customers. Further refinement in the engineering work for the recurrent production is performed by Syntony.
• December 27, 2021: From simulated moondust to an ultraflat floor, a 3D-printed human bone to a wall decoration that once flew on the Hubble Space Telescope, the new 99 Objects of ESA ESTEC website gives visitors a close-up view of intriguing, often surprising artefacts assembled together to tell the story of ESA’s technical heart. 11)
Figure 13: A selection of items from the new ESA ESTEC in 99 Objects website (image credit: ESA-Redmedia)
- “Objects are what matter,” famed anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss once wrote. “Only they carry the evidence that throughout the centuries something really happened among human beings.” So what manner of objects come out of more than half a century of activity at Europe’s biggest space centre?
- Often described as the technical heart of ESA, ESTEC is where most ESA projects are born and where they are guided through the various phases of development. It is also the Agency’s centre for technology development, and includes Europe’s largest satellite testing centre, equipped to simulate every aspect of the spaceflight environment.
- During its long and distinguished history as the incubator of Europe’s space efforts – ESTEC’s first satellite was launched back in 1968, the same year that the establishment opened – this establishment has accumulated a rich stash of objects. Whether exotic or ordinary, each tells a story – of inspiration and perseverance, of steps forward and backward, of exploration, discovery and surprise.
- The aim of ESA ESTEC IN 99 OBJECTS is to chart Europe’s cosmic journey through artifacts left behind by the scientists and engineers who’ve helped launch more than 180 missions.
- Surrounded by these 99 objects and many more, nearly 3 000 international experts currently work in 35 ESTEC laboratories on the missions – and new objects – that will define the coming decades in space.
- The first selection of objects has already gone live on the site, with more to follow in the weeks and months to come.
Figure 14: A selection of items from the ESA ESTEC in 99 Objects website (image credit: ESA-Redmedia)
Figure 15: Part of a solar panel from the Hubble Space Telescope was returned to Earth by Space Shuttle and is now on display at ESA's ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands (image credit: ESA-Redmedia)
• December 17, 2021: Green and digital transition in Europe will benefit from ESA expertise that supports national plans for investing recovery and resilience funds in space projects. 12)
- At the 303rd ESA Council meeting in Paris on 15 December 2021, ESA Member States took the decision to further the role of ESA as provider of expertise in support of national space plans, in particular in order to accompany the investment of Italian recovery and resilience funds in space programmes.
- The corresponding arrangement for ESA’s assistance to the Italian National Project concerning Earth observation and space transportation and associated protocol were signed on the margin of the first Giornata Nazionale dello Spazio (Italian National Space Day), held at the Italian Space Agency (ASI) headquarters in Rome on 16 December 2021, by the Italian Minister for Digital Transition and Technological Innovation and delegated authority for space, Vittorio Colao, and ESA Director General, Josef Aschbacher, in the presence of the ASI President, Giorgio Saccoccia.
- The arrangement covers, in particular, activities in the fields of Earth observation and access to space where Italy has remarkable track records as well as industrial and research capabilities. The closer cooperation between Italy and ESA, with the establishment of joint teams, will ensure that the best available competencies will be utilised in the most effective way. Joint activities will start in 2022 and shall be completed by 2026.
- Minister Colao said: “We have signed an agreement with the European Space Agency for the development of key projects in Earth observation and space transportation. The constellation in Earth observation is an Italian asset designed to strengthen a European strategy in this area. The agreement will contribute to consolidate Italy’s skills in these areas, thanks also to the significant contribution of ASI. It's time for change. The programmes we will carry out must be efficient, fast and effective – and must act as a magnet for expanding European partnerships and attracting private capital.”
- ESA Director General, Josef Aschbacher, said: “ESA and its unique expertise in Europe are an asset to all our Member States. Italy’s decision, as well as similar decisions by other Member States, are a confirmation of the importance of space technologies in tackling the challenges linked to the green and digital transition and the recovery of our economies. This agreement is an important building block in accelerating the use of space for society, one of the key goals of Agenda 2025. On behalf of all women and men at ESA, I am very proud of the trust our Member States place on us in assisting them to carry out their national projects.”
• December 10, 2021: Applicants to ESA’s astronaut selection are being thanked for their patience as thousands of acceptance or rejection notifications are distributed to candidates across Europe. 13)
- Head of Space Medicine at ESA, Guillaume Weerts, says he and his team have been very conscious of the need to give every application the attention it deserves as ESA seeks its first new astronauts in over 10 years. With more than 23,000 applications to evaluate, this is a process that takes time.
Figure 16: The European Astronaut Centre (EAC) is a centre of excellence for astronaut selection, training, medical support and surveillance, as well as supporting astronauts and their families in preparation for, and during, their spaceflights. EAC was established in 1990 and is located near Cologne, Germany. (image credit: ESA, S. Corvaja)
- “We announced that we would have all invitations for the first phase of testing, or the refusal letters and thank you letters, sent by the end of November. Though we came very close to meeting this goal, there are still some applicants who have not heard from us,” he explains.
- “If you are in this category, please be assured you have not been forgotten. You should expect an answer – either positive or negative – by the end of 2021.”
- The next step for successful candidates is an invitation to a full day of testing at a facility in Europe. This process is already underway, with applicants invited progressively due to the work involved in this process and the need to consider Covid-19-related regulations and travel restrictions.
- The first round of testing focuses on psychological performance, this will be followed by a set of psychological interviews and group tests before medical testing. Candidates who continue to be successful through each of these stages will be invited to recruitment interviews, with the final announcement of ESA’s new class of astronauts and reserve astronauts expected by the end of next year.
Figure 17: ESA Head of Space Medicine, Guillaume Weerts, gives an update on ESA’s 2021-22 astronaut selection from the training hall of ESA’s European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany (video credit: ESA)
- ESA Human Resources Business Partner Antonella Costa says ESA would like to thank everyone who put themselves forward to be considered for the 2021-22 astronaut selection.
- “We really want to thank all the candidates, both those continuing in the application process and those who will leave us at this stage,” she says. “It is a very competitive process with so many highly qualified people competing for a small number of positions. Even just meeting the initial criteria to apply is something be proud of.
- “Not everyone can be successful in becoming an ESA astronaut, but there are many other ways in which you can support Europe in space,” she adds.
- ESA is recruiting for a number of different roles right now and even more will be advertised in the future that would benefit from the skills and expertise that many of our astronaut applicants bring to the table. So please, take a look at the ESA jobs website to see how else you could be involved and continue your journey with ESA.”
- For more information about ESA’s astronaut selection, visit the Your Way To Space page on ESA’s website.
• November 19, 2021: Government ministers in charge of space activities in ESA’s Member States today met at an Intermediate Ministerial Meeting held in Matosinhos, Portugal. 14)
- The Council of Ministers unanimously adopted a Resolution to accelerate the use of space in Europe (the “Matosinhos manifesto”) to tackle the urgent and unprecedented societal, economic and security challenges faced by Europe and its citizens.
Figure 18: ESA’s Ministers in charge of space activities convened at an Intermediate Ministerial Meeting (IMM21) at the CEiiA centre, Matosinhos, Portugal, on 18-19 November 2021 (image credit: ESA, S. Corvaja)
- The Resolution defined three “accelerators” to bring Europe’s space ambitions to the next level, mandating the ESA Director General to develop their governance and funding concepts, in concert with the Member States.
- As a first priority, ESA will start working towards the “Space for a Green Future” accelerator to enable people to better understand the current state of the planet and to develop scenarios and solutions for sustainable life on Earth through a digital twin of our planet, which will contribute to achieving climate neutrality with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
- Secondly the “Rapid and Resilient Crisis Response” accelerator will aim at supporting governments to act decisively on crises facing Europe, from flooding and storms to wildfires, without prejudice to the sovereign competencies of the Member States and to the competencies of European Union.
- Thirdly the “Protection of Space Assets” accelerator will have the objective to safeguard ESA astronauts and assets from interference by space debris and space weather.
- The ESA Council also recognized two “inspirators” to reinforce European leadership in science, technology development and inspiration: an icy moon sample return mission; and human space exploration.
- The concept of the three accelerators and two inspirators were defined over the past few months, based on the advice of a High-Level Advisory Group to the ESA Director General. The “Final Report on Accelerating the Use of Space in Europe” was issued in early October and its recommendations were presented by the ESA Director General to Member States at the ESA Council meeting held later that month.
- The Resolution to accelerate the use of space in Europe strongly supports the vision of the ESA Director General’s “Agenda 2025” to build on Europe’s excellence in space and to realize its full potential, for the benefit of everyone on Earth and European citizens, in particular.
- The Intermediate Ministerial Meeting was a milestone on the road to the European Space Summit to be held in Toulouse in February 2022, ahead of ESA’s next Council Meeting at ministerial level.
- Josef Aschbacher, Director General of ESA, said: “Space is where the intensifying global competition for technological innovation, economic leadership and European autonomy will play out. It is urgent that Europe accelerates its use of space.
- “The Intermediate Ministerial Meeting has recognized the need for a renewed European space ambition. The three accelerators and two inspirators will be steps for Europe to fully use space for its citizens, creating economic opportunities. This gives me as ESA’s Director General a clear mandate ahead of the European Space Summit.”
- Manuel Heitor, Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education in the Portuguese Government, who chaired the ESA Intermediate Ministerial Meeting, said: “We all need to ‘make space for Europe’ in a way to guarantee that European citizens become an integral part of future space developments in Europe. This means to save lives, predict natural disasters, prevent fires and, overall, deal with climate change, dramatic biodiversity reduction, health and economic crisis, uncertainty and risks, together with ensuring security and safe conditions for our populations. This can only be addressed if space initiatives in Europe move forward in alignment with the digital and green transitions.
- “The large-scale nature and fast pace of the climate crisis and other challenges means that no European nation will be able to effectively address them alone. Space has enormous untapped potential to help tackle these challenges and an acceleration in developing European space capability is now urgently needed.”
• November 15, 2021: ESA is primed to play a crucial role in the revitalized international drive to combat global warming set out at the COP26 climate talks. 15)
- After two weeks of negotiations, the summit – which was held in Glasgow in the UK – concluded with world governments working to agree on a renewed commitment to dial back planet-warming emissions.
- As set out in its recently released vision for European space activities, ESA is stepping up its efforts to help tackle the climate crisis.
- At COP26, the agency showcased how it is using space technology to boost global understanding of the changing environment and accelerate the transition to a green, sustainable economy.
A critical decade for climate action
- A fleet of Earth observing satellites called the Sentinels – developed by ESA as part of the European Union’s Copernicus program – provide data on different aspects of the environment.
Figure 19: Copernicus Sentinel-6 over Northern Europe. Sea levels have not only been rising over the past 25 years, but the rate of rise is accelerating, putting coastal communities at risk. With a coastline of more than 100,000 km, many of Europe’s densely populated coastal zones are vulnerable to flooding. It is vital that the changing height of the sea surface continues to be closely monitored over the coming decades. Copernicus Sentinel-6 is the key mission undertaking this important role until at least 2030 (image credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
- ESA’s Climate Change Initiative – which uses space data to generate long-term observations for key aspects of the climate – enables scientists to understand the Earth system and helps governments and businesses work towards the goals of the Paris Agreement, an international treaty that aims to limit global warming.
- The initiative made strong contributions to a recently released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that revealed the urgent need to accelerate climate action.
- Over the next decade, ESA’s space activities will help the international community monitor how well mitigation and adaption strategies are working, supporting the ambition of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.
Figure 20: Possible future temperature rise. ESA's Climate Change from Space Kit is an interactive PDF that takes the reader through many of the ‘variables’ that upset Earth’s delicate balance and describes how ESA measures them from space. - Climate change is a reality. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are responsible for rising temperatures, altering the Earth system’s delicate balance. The effects of which are widespread, threatening lives, well-being and prosperity. If unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate will be devastating. World leaders at COP26 work to accelerate action towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions to keep the goal of 1.5ºC temperature rise within reach (image credit: ESA)
- Several new ESA missions that will facilitate these efforts were highlighted as part of the summit.
- The agency reported that Europe’s new satellite for monitoring and tracking carbon dioxide emissions from human activity is being put through its paces at ESA’s Test Centre in the Netherlands ahead of its launch in 2025.
- The satellite is one of six Copernicus Sentinel Expansion missions being developed by ESA on behalf of the European Union.
- In addition, it was announced that the UK-led Truths mission – which will provide radiation measurements to improve scientists’ understanding of climate change and help increase the precision of climate models – is moving into its next stage of development.
- Other upcoming activities include ESA’s Biomass mission, which is set to improve understanding of how the world’s forests are responding to climate change.
- During the conference, ESA also premiered a documentary that follows ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, along with a team of glaciologists and climate experts, on a journey across the Alps to investigate the impact of rising global temperatures on glaciers.
Figure 21: Setting the gold standard for climate measurements. ESA’s TRUTHS mission will provide unprecedented accurate measurements of incoming solar radiation and of radiation reflected from Earth back out into space traceable to the International System of Units (SI), with which to calibrate data from other satellites. In effect, TRUTHS will be a ‘standards laboratory in space’, setting the ‘gold standard’ reference for climate measurements (image credit: ESA/Airbus)
Speeding the green transition
- On top of helping to monitor the environment, space technology is enabling businesses in Europe to develop and commercialise sustainable solutions for a decarbonised economy.
- As part of the summit, ESA highlighted how the integration of satellites and terrestrial communications networks is set to enable next-generation connectivity, supporting innovative applications across society, including low-emissions autonomous vehicles, green energy production and even entire smart city ecosystems.
- ESA is developing a centre for business innovation – called the 5G/6G Hub – at its site in the UK to showcase the immense potential of these converged telecommunications networks.
- In addition, the agency’s Space Solutions program is helping European businesses to devise space-based products and services that address key environmental and social challenges.
Figure 22: ESA showcases the 5G/6G Hub at COP26 (image credit: ESA)
- ESA held a joint stand with Space4Climate in the COP26 Green Zone. The agency was joined by many of its partners, including the UK Space Agency, RAL Space, and Darwin Innovation Group.
Figure 23: ESA 5G/6G Hub: space to expand connectivity. A centre for innovation that will showcase how space can enable future generations of telecommunications and connected applications is being developed. The Hub – based at ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications at Harwell in the UK – is a place for collaboration, where industry will take advantage of the immense potential of converged satellite and terrestrial communications networks to create innovative applications that benefit society and the environment. - ESA’s ambition is to extend the Hub’s technology to cover businesses at the Harwell Campus, and then across Europe and beyond to connect with other research facilities, fostering innovation in ESA’s member states and globally. Developed with information technology company CGI, the centre will provide a converged satellite and 5G terrestrial network. Using this future 5G environment and state-of-the-art equipment, businesses from many industries will partner with ESA to test and develop innovative applications. - It will also bring together innovators from across the 5G ecosystem – including satellite and terrestrial network operators, equipment providers, and application developers – to create 5G solutions. The Hub forms part of ESA’s wider efforts to use space technology to enable connectivity (video credit: ESA)
• October 11, 2021: The new heart of ESA’s Planetary Defence Office was inaugurated today, heralding a new chapter in the Agency’s work to protect Earth from dangerous near-Earth objects, aka asteroids. 16)
Figure 24: What was once a modest office at ESA’s ESRIN establishment, in Frascati, Italy, has been renovated into a much more capable facility to serve as ESA’s NEOCC (Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre). The new site will also serve as the main data hub for daily observation data from ESA’s future Flyeye telescopes, the first of which is now being assembled and integrated at a factory in Milan (image credit: ESA)
- For years, ESA has been dedicated to opening our eyes to hazards in space, and when it came to asteroids this meant ensuring Europe had the capability to detect, track and understand what’s out there.
- In 2019, ESA adopted a renewed ’Space Safety’ program, and ESA’s Planetary Defenders are not only building new, state-of-the-art telescopic eyes on the sky but are working with the international community to devise, build and fly missions to help test asteroid deflection for the first time.
- With the greater responsibility, comes the need for expanded coordination facilities serving as the central hub for the Agency’s asteroid data and analysis efforts.
- “Our new NEOCC and its activities are an important tool of international cooperation, reflecting the global character of the dangers we all face due to asteroids,” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.
- “ESA’s Planetary Defence Office is in regular close contact with all major organisations monitoring asteroid risk, from NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and their Center for NEO studies, to the UN-endorsed committees that help coordinate the global effort.
- "The Planetary Defence Office is also performing technical management of the recently initiated activities on space safety within the European Union. Our activities are part of a worldwide community effort, and the NEOCC shows that Europe and ESA in particular can bring something substantial and indispensable to the table.”
A new home for ESA’s asteroid ‘sorting hat’
- “The NEOCC is central to ESA’s Planetary Defence Office. Think of it a little like Europe’s asteroid ‘sorting hat’,” explains Detlef Koschny, acting Head of ESA’s Planetary Defence Office.
- “A key activity of the office, for example, is compiling the Asteroid Risk List. The NEOCC ranks any asteroid with a greater-than-zero chance of impacting Earth, then pools all available observations – getting more if necessary – until we know each object’s precise orbit.”
- The Centre is in fact the central access point to an entire network of European data sources and information providers, as well as the provider of vital asteroid orbital information, impact monitoring, risk analyses and more.
- Contributing to and coordinating observations of asteroids and comets in the Solar System, the NEOCC also evaluates and monitors the threat posed by any space rocks that come near Earth, proposing mitigation measures if needed, for example to emergency response agencies in case of an imminent impact.
Figure 25: Relative sizes of possible target asteroids and other known asteroids (image credit: Image composite by AOES Medialab, ESA 2001. Original photos courtesy of NASA/JPL, JHU/APL)
- ESA’s Planetary Defence Office currently consists of 15 people, half of whom work at the NEOCC, and the remainder at other ESA establishments including ESTEC in the Netherlands, ESOC in Germany and ESAC in Spain.
- “With the inauguration of a NEO Coordination Centre in ESRIN, an important milestone has been achieved,” says Giorgio Saccoccia, President of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
- “Planetary Defence is a priority for Italy, as witnessed also by the participation to the first asteroid deflection experiment through the DART, LICIACube and Hera missions. Our Country supports since the very beginning the ESA programs devoted to space safety as an opportunity to give value to the worldwide expertise of the Italian scientific community working on the asteroid hazard.
- “Over the years, ESA has successfully advanced the key areas of impact monitoring, asteroid tracking, and discovery observations, thanks to the impressive work of a team of highly skilled experts. They deserve the beautiful state-of the art logistic environment being inaugurated today at ESRIN: it is a clear sign that we are on the right track in the path of taking care of our planet and its citizens.”
Leading Europe’s response, collaborating with the world
- As the Planetary Defence Office leads Europe’s response to the asteroid threat, it works side-by-side with the international community, and in particular collaborates closely with NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, while the NEOCC works closely with CNEOS, the Center for NEO Studies at NASA/JPL in California.
- In addition, ESA is a member of two UN-endorsed organisations: the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN), which is currently coordinated by NASA; and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG), chaired by ESA. SMPAG is the group in charge of preparing an international space-based response to any future asteroid threat.
Figure 26: Some day in the future, an asteroid might be detected heading toward our home planet. What on Earth happens next? This infographic shows the flow of actions that would take place between global agencies and organisations, should a risky asteroid be detected (image credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)
- ESA also works closely with the USA-based Minor Planet Center, the international clearing house for high-quality data on near-Earth objects, and the Agency also performs technical management for some of the recently initiated space safety activities within the European Union.
- Last but not least, ESA has an agreement with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to use their Very Large Telescope for vital asteroid follow-up observations.
Figure 27: This year’s Open Day combined an in-person tour of ESTEC for visitors with disabilities on Saturday 2 October with an online event open to all the following afternoon. The in-person event was formally opened by Head of ESTEC and ESA Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality Franco Ongaro, André Kuipers and former Dutch Minister for the Disabled Rick Brink (image credit: ESA, SJM Photography)
- With overall visitor numbers limited by continuing COVID-19 precautions, the aim was to give people with disabilities (and their carers) a special chance to see ESTEC – including those who might have found it impractical to visit the establishment amid the busy crowds of past Open Days.
- Stands were set up by various ESA teams so that visitors could touch and hear, as well as see, space hardware and test equipment. Participants finished their tour with a question and answer session with André about his 204 days living and working in space.
- Sunday’s online participants were greeted by ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher: “ESA is an Agency made of people, and this is your chance to meet many of those working behind the scenes.”
- Highlights included a Q&A (Question & Answer) period with German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, talks on future missions by ESA space scientists, presentations by ESA Education and Human Resources and a talk applying space recycling systems down to Earth – to convert pee into drinkable tea. The event encompassed multiple ESA establishments, including mission control center ESOC in Germany, Earth observation center ESRIN in Italy and space applications and telecommunications center ECSAT (European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications) in Harwell, UK.
• October 5, 2021: The ESA-owned Short Arm Human Centrifuge has been upgraded, installed and inaugurated at the Olympic Sport Centre Planica facility near Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. Soon to be home to ESA bedrest studies, this recently enhanced clinical research center will help further scientists’ knowledge of human physiology in space. 18)
Figure 28: In bedrest studies, volunteers spend from five to 60 days in bed, usually tilted backwards with their heads at 6º below the horizontal. They are not permitted to stand up unless a research program demands it and must perform all daily activities in bed – including eating, showers and exercise (image credit: K. Bidovec & A. Hodalič)
- Run by the Jozef Stefan Institute on behalf of ESA, bedrest studies at the facility offer scientists a way to see how the human body adapts to weightlessness. This allows researchers to test techniques, known as “countermeasures”, to counteract the negative effects of living in space.
- The Short-Arm Human Centrifuge offers an extra suite of possible countermeasures by exposing people to artificial gravity. At 35 revolutions of the 3-m arms per minute, riders may experience a force of gravity that is more than twice their own body weight at their center of mass, and more than four times their body weight at their feet.
- Artificial gravity has the potential to reduce many of the negative effects of weightlessness on the human body in one go. As spinning encourages blood to flow back towards a subject’s feet, they are provided with a force to push against, while they follow a carefully controlled exercise regime of squats, jumps, heel raises and toe raises, for 30 minutes per day. These countermeasures should mitigate the reduction of bone and muscle mass that astronauts, and bedrest subjects, can otherwise experience.
- The Planica facility provides equipment to collect all ESA Bedrest Core Data, allowing for comparison between different ESA-sponsored studies. It can also be maintained under adjustable environmental conditions, such as a low-oxygen atmosphere, which is highly relevant for human exploration missions.
- The results of these studies also benefit people on Earth. Many negative effects of living in space are similar to those experienced naturally as we age, such as osteoporosis, muscle loss and orthostatic intolerance.
- ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher signed the loan agreement for the centrifuge with representatives from the Jozef Stefan Institute during his tour of Slovenia last week.
- Slovenia has been an ESA Associate member since 2016 and recently signed on to the Terrae Novae program (formerly known as the European Exploration Envelope Program (E3P).
• September 10, 2021: Work is under way to sort and assess applications from more than 22,500 ESA astronaut hopefuls. The rigorous selection process will take around 18 months. Initial screening to ensure that basic criteria are met will be followed by medical and psychological tests, exercises and interviews. 19)
- ESA plans to recruit 4-6 new astronauts through this 2021-22 selection round to support the future of European space exploration. This is likely to include missions to the International Space Station as well as the Moon. As part of the selection process, ESA is also assessing the feasibility of flying an astronaut with a physical disability.
Figure 29: An overview of the astronaut selection process (video credit: ESA)
• September 1, 2021: ESA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) are opening the second round of their HyperGES fellowship, part of the Access to Space For All Initiative, offering student teams around the globe the chance to perform hypergravity experiments using the Large Diameter Centrifuge at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands, with a particular focus on developing nations. 20)
- The LDC Large Diameter Centrifuge) is an 8-m diameter four-arm centrifuge that gives researchers access to a range of hypergravity up to 20 times Earth gravity for weeks or months at a time.
Figure 30: Large Diameter Centrifuge at full speed at ESA/ESTEC (image credit: ESA, A. Le Floc'h)
- At its fastest, the centrifuge rotates at up to 67 revs per minute, with its six gondolas placed at different points along its arms weighing in at 130 kg, and each capable of accommodating 80 kg of payload.
- The result is that researchers are able to increase the force of gravity at the turn of a dial. The LDC is popular with life and physical science teams, as well as for commercial experiments. Internal ESA teams use the centrifuge to see how candidate spacecraft materials and components would respond to the violent accelerations involved in launching into space.
- The idea behind this new fellowship is to widen LDC access to teams from all over the world, particularly for teams from developing countries, who may otherwise lack access to such equipment. It is formally known as the ‘United Nations / European Space Agency Fellowship Program on the Large Diameter Centrifuge Hypergravity Experiment Series’, or HyperGES for short.
- The first round winning team came from Mahidol University, Thailand, mounting an investigation into the response of watermeal – the smallest flowering plant on Earth, even smaller than the more familiar duckweed – to changing gravity levels, to assess its usefulness for space-based life support systems. The team is currently developing their hypergravity experiment.
- For the second round of HyperGES, teams of students from all over the world – with particular attention to developing countries – supported by scientists and researchers are invited to submit their application by 28 February 2022.
- To help guide applicants in developing their proposals, ESA has supported UNOOSA in the preparation of a dedicated webinar series.
- The series provides an overview of the fundamentals, special characteristics, and advantages the hypergravity/microgravity environment has to offer, giving insights on the types of research, their applications and how to develop experiments for this unique environment.
- UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo comments: "Owing to the joint work of the Office and its partners, the Access to Space for All Initiative is playing a key role to bridge the space divide. By providing access to cutting edge facilities such as the Large Diameter Centrifuge to all Member States of the United Nations, ESA is reaffirming its commitment as partner in the Access to Space for All Initiative. I am particularly keen and excited to see potential results and distinctive applications which can contribute to the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals”.
- ESA Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality and Head of ESTEC Franco Ongaro adds: “We are proud to be part of UNOOSA Access to Space for All Initiative. In ESTEC, we have about 35 research laboratories that allow industry and scientists to achieve their research goals. We thank UNOOSA for extending access to the Centrifuge, operating as an important element of these laboratories, to the rest of the world as well. We look forward to the results of the HyperGES Announcement of Opportunity!”
• August 24, 2021: Planet Aqua: Solutions from Space for Clean Water. An overview of the 'World Water Week' with André Kuipers. 21)
Figure 31: Water is life, on Earth and in space. Dutch ESA astronaut André Kuipers recounts his experience living in space for 204 days, and his time looking back on the blue face of ‘Planet Aqua’, comparing notes with divers about what is going on beneath the waves. He goes on to explore how space technology is being used for water management, from orbital tracking of water quality and pollution to spacecraft-grade recycling systems deployed down on the ground, as well as ambitious efforts to identify marine plastic litter using satellites [video credit: ESA, Produced for SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute) World Water Week with the support of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs]
• August 23, 2021: Astronaut hopefuls are being asked for their patience as ESA processes over 23,000 applications to its Astronaut and Astronaut (with a disability) vacancies. This number far exceeds the Agency’s most optimistic forecasts. 22)
- Head of space medicine at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre (EAC) Guillaume Weerts is part of the team leading the astronaut selection. He says the number of applications is a positive indication of the level of interest in space activities in Europe, but it will take some time to work through.
- “At ESA, we firmly believe that every application should receive the attention it deserves. With the considerable number of applicants, it simply takes more time than initially foreseen,” explains Guillaume.
- “Upon completion of the pre-screening stage, we found some applications did not fulfil the requirements stated in the applicable documentation, and these applicants were notified immediately. However, more than 80% of all remaining, eligible applications are still under review,” adds Antonella Costa, Human Resources Business Partner at ESA.
- The next step for successful candidates is an invitation to a full day of testing at a facility in Europe. This step has already started and will last until at least the end of the year. Candidates are being invited progressively due to the work involved in this process and the need to consider COVID-19-related travel restrictions.
- “If you have not yet been invited, it does not necessarily mean that your application is not being considered. We ask you for your patience as we process applications and issue these invitations,” says Antonella.
- “We really want to thank everyone who did put themselves forward. We fully understand how important these applications are to candidates, and we are working to let everyone who applied know the outcome of their application as soon as possible.”
- Under the revised processing timeline, it is expected that all candidates will be notified of the outcome of their application by the end of November 2021 at the latest.
Figure 32: On 31 March 2021, the European Space Agency is opening the application process for its first astronaut selection in over a decade. If you meet the minimum requirements and want to join Europe’s journey into space, this is your chance to apply. If you meet the minimum requirements and want to join Europe’s journey into space, this is your chance to apply. Website esa.int/YourWayToSpace provides everything you need to know to prepare your application. All applications must be submitted to ESA’s careers website by 28 May 2021 (video credit: ESA) 23)
• July 23, 2021: A drone-snapped image of ESA’s technical heart, the European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC. Nestled beside coastal dunes in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, ESTEC is ESA’s largest establishment and hub of Europe’s space efforts. 24)
Figure 33: Drone photo of ESA/ESTEC taken from the sea side (image credit: ESA, Barretta Media)
- Beside the entrance stands the establishment's restaurant and tower complex built by renowned Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck. Beyond it is the main building, housing ESA laboratories and mission teams, distinguished by a 200-m long main corridor, leading to the rearward Test Centre for evaluating satellites and flight hardware.
- Across the car park to the left is the three-block T-building, home to ESA’s Galileo team, with the Erasmus centre for human spaceflight behind it.
• July 22, 2021: An ESA project has developed satellite antenna the size of a small picture frame, intended for miniature CubeSats. Built by Polish company WiRan the antenna found its first customer as soon as it was finalized, and is already serving in space. 25)
- A fast-growing sector of Europe’s space economy, CubeSats are budget nanosatellites built up from standardized 10 cm cubic units – originally devised for educational uses, but increasingly capable of delivering valuable results from orbit.
- Measuring less than 10 x 10 x 3 cm, including its connector, this new S-band antenna is designed for ‘telemetry, tracking and command’ purposes, meaning it will be used for uplinking commands to a CubeSat and downlinking platform and payload data.
- ESA antenna engineer Benedetta Fiorelli served as technical officer for the antenna project: “It is close to omnidirectional in design with quite a wide beam, so that even if the CubeSat is tumbling in space then its connection with the ground should still continue. That’s not very common but the team has achieved it here.
Figure 34: Photo of the miniature CubeSat S-band antenna (image credit: WiRan)
- “The design challenge has been to fit all the spread power and high gain within the antenna’s physical constraints, because for CubeSats, saving volume is all important. The end result is a high-performing product at a low, competitive cost.”
- The antenna was designed and built by Polish radio frequency hardware design house WiRan, its development supported through ESA’s Polish Industry Incentive Scheme.
- Inspiration for the antenna came out of a previous ESA project with the company, to develop an S-band diplexer for CubeSats, allowing different frequency bands to share a common antenna.
- “We then wanted to produce an antenna compatible with our design,” explains Robert Stefański, Chief Technology Officer of WiRan. “We consulted with the well-known CubeSat company ISISpace in the Netherlands to help define antenna specifications, then ESA decided to support its development.
- WiRan had sufficient confidence in the design that the company invested extra time and money to bring the antenna from an engineering model up to the verge of space-readiness.
- Robert Stefański notes: “Our attitude is to build products that are useful, not just documentation or samples to be hidden in a drawer forever. So the decision to make further investment was obvious, once the prospect of a flight opportunity arose, because those extra levels of readiness make a big difference within the space market.”
- This decision paid off when a commercial customer purchased the antenna for a space mission. The customer’s identity is confidential, but WiRan can confirm their S-band antenna is now operational in space.
- “The occurrence of such an early customer for our antenna – along with other S- and L-band radio frequency hardware products – was a surprise, an unexpected and fortunate result of our technical contacts in the past,” adds Robert Stefański. “We did not plan for it when applying our proposal, but it fitted perfectly our strategy of development for our space products.”
- Benedetta adds: “The CubeSat market is evolving rapidly, with lots of competition. For this new design to have found a customer so fast within the sector shows that supporting it was a good call, that the market place turns out to endorse. Then WiRan demonstrated their own faith in their work by devoting extra resources to it in turn.”
• June 22, 2021: After months of constructive negotiations, ESA and the EU signed today a new Financial Framework Partnership Agreement (FFPA) in a ceremony to celebrate the launch of the new EU space program. 26) 27)
- This will mark a fresh start for space activities in Europe and represents an important step forward in the relationship between ESA and EU. It is also one of the top priorities of Agenda 2025, the roadmap of ESA’s Director General Josef Aschbacher.
Figure 35: ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher signs the Financial Framework Partnership Agreement as EU officials, including Commissioner Thierry Breton (right) look on (image credit: European Commission webcast)
- “This is a major achievement for ESA, recognized for its scientific excellence and technical expertise in designing space systems and ground facilities for the benefit of European citizens,” said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.
- “I’m grateful and would like to thank Commissioner Thierry Breton for the trust given to ESA, whose experience in all areas of space activities is rewarded here by an enhanced cooperation between our two institutions, bringing a new ambition for space in Europe.”
- The new EU space program will ensure the continuity and reinforces the very successful flagships such as Galileo, Copernicus and EGNOS, that were designed by ESA, and positioned Europe in a global leading role in the areas of Earth observation and navigation. It will also support new initiatives especially in the domain of secure connectivity, research and development and space commercialization, where ESA will play a key role, also offering new funding opportunities for entrepreneurship.
Figure 36: From left: DG DEFIS (Defence Industry and Space) Director General, Timo Pesonen, Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor, EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher and EUSPA Executive Director, Rodrigo da Costa (image credit: EUSPA) 28)
- The agreement signed today represents an EU investment of almost €9 billion in the period of 2021 to 2027, for ESA and European industry to design new-generation systems and programs, crucial for the economy and a green and digital Europe. This funding adds to ESA’s budget and thus consolidates an ambitious set of mandatory and optional programs, as defined by ESA Member States.
- The FFPA agreement defines the roles and responsibilities of all partners, the European Commission, ESA and the new EU space programme agency, EUSPA. It will also ensure the level of autonomy of ESA that is necessary to efficiently develop and implement the programs.
- In the last two decades, ESA successfully developed Copernicus and the Galileo and EGNOS satellite navigation systems. Copernicus is a game changer and rapidly became, through its space component, the biggest provider of free and open Earth observation data in the world. The FFPA will allow this flagship program to be taken to the next level, strengthening ESA’s role as the architect of European Earth observation by developing and building the Sentinels Expansion missions and the Sentinel next generation missions, in order to respond to new emerging and urgent user needs and to guarantee enhanced continuity of current data. Such missions will monitor various aspects of climate change and will support the implementation of key EU policies, such as the Green Deal. This places Europe at the centre of the international space stage, reinforcing its leading role in tackling climate change, monitoring biodiversity and supporting disaster relief.
- Galileo is Europe’s civil global satellite navigation constellation and a major success, being currently the world’s most precise satnav system and offering meter-scale accuracy to more than two billion users around the globe. The FFPA will bring Galileo to the next level with the development of the second generation, a further step forward with the use of many innovative technologies to guarantee unprecedented precision, robustness and flexibility of the system. This will boost European economy with the perspective for many new devices and services to offer positioning capabilities, a true revolution for emerging self-driving cars, autonomous drones and the whole ‘Internet of things’. EGNOS is the world’s most advanced Satellite-Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS), offering unprecedented, guaranteed position accuracy, not only to the aviation sector but also to other transport and agricultural sectors.
- The FFPA agreement includes additional components under ESA’s responsibility, such as the preparation and design of new flagship secure connectivity GOVSATCOM program, In-Orbit demonstration/Validation service and space safety activities to monitor space hazards.
- ESA is the European Space Agency and Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. With 22 Members States, ESA is an intergovernmental organization working closely with European industry, national space agencies and the European Union, as well as cooperating with space agencies worldwide.
- ESA covers a wide range of activities, including launchers, science, robotic and human exploration, navigation, Earth observation, telecommunications, space safety and operations. It designs, builds and operates facilities and a fleet of space missions in orbit around the Earth and in the Solar System, and flies European astronauts with international partners.
• 21 May 2021: Metalysis and ESA announce team Malt as winner of the first phase of the Grand Challenge to develop innovative techniques for future lunar settlements. 29)
- "ESA’s Grand Challenge fosters New Space initiatives in Europe and this brings us into contact with dynamic start-up companies such as Malt. Our first challenge, in partnership with Metalysis, moves us closer to our space exploration goals and will stimulate space commercialization in line with ESA’s Agenda 2025,” commented ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.
- The Metalysis–ESA Grand Challenge was launched in 2020 and offers a prize of €500,000, fully sponsored by Metalysis. It rewards new miniaturized technology that will improve and enhance the Metalysis-patented electrolytic process which is able to extract oxygen and titanium from regolith found on other planets.
- Metalysis, a UK-based metallurgy company, chose team Malt, a Spanish interdisciplinary group active in biomedicine and space applications, as winner of the first phase of the Metalysis–ESA Grand Challenge, and has awarded them €50,000.
Figure 37: Malt comprises scientists and engineers with a background in spectroscopic solutions for applications such as heritage, biomedicine and space applications. They have participated, as part of Spanish public research institutes and universities, in the development of Raman and LIBS spectrometers for space applications such as RLS for ESA ExoMars or SuperCam for NASA Mars 2020 missions (image credit: Malt)
- The aim is now to incorporate this state-of-the-art space technology in civilian society through spinoff industrial applications. The participation of this team in the Metalysis–ESA Grand Challenge is a unique opportunity to demonstrate how laser-based spectroscopic techniques can be reliably used for specific applications, while also serving as a catalyst for the consolidation of this young group of professionals into a long-term and auto-sufficient European-based company.
- Selected by a panel of experts, Malt, provided a detailed description of the functions and processes to devise process-monitoring systems that could fit with Metalysis electrochemical cells on Earth, and accompany the development of the associated technology in space.
- “Participation in this challenge has represented a great opportunity to apply and expand our team expertise in fields ranging from the application of spectroscopic techniques for material processing to space hardware development,” said Guillermo Lopez. “We’re looking forward to the next phase and feel proud that we are contributing to facilitate human over robotic exploration of other planetary bodies, it is a super exciting challenge.”
- The competition has entered its second phase during which a breadboard which best meets the requirements of the challenge, will be awarded the remaining half million euro prize money.
- Ian Mellor, Managing Director at Metalysis commented: “We were impressed by the potential solution proposed by the Malt team, drawing on their expertise in the development of spectroscopic techniques, and applying this to the in situ process monitoring of the Metalysis process, during Phase 1 of the Grand Challenge. Furthermore, we look forward to following progression of the concept throughout Phase 2, to ultimately testing the hardware in our metal powder and oxygen production technology.”
Towards a lunar economy
- As ESA and other agencies prepare to send humans back to the Moon – this time to stay – technologies that make use of materials available in space, called in situ resource utilization (ISRU), are seen as key to sustainability, and a stepping stone in humankind's adventure to Mars and farther into the Solar System.
- ESA encourages European industry to invest in the development of optimized technologies and systems that support future space exploration, the added benefit being that these ideas can also address sustainability and scarcity of resources on Earth.
- The ESA Grand Challenge is part of the Agency’s commitment to foster new European entrepreneurs, innovation-led start-up companies and new ventures.
- Metalysis has spent more than a decade developing and scaling up its electrochemical technology; a process that converts refined oxides and ores directly into valuable metal alloy powders used in 3D printing for aerospace, automotive and high-value manufacturing.
- This electrolysis technology provides a potential efficient solution for ISRU as well as terrestrial applications. However, the direction of development for lunar or martian ISRU may be different for terrestrial applications.
- Metalysis was recently awarded ESA funding for its ‘The Metalysis Fray-Farthing-Chen (FFC) Cambridge process for extra-terrestrial oxygen production from ISRU’ project, which forms part of ESA’s Space Resources Strategy and is carried out within ESA’s GSTP (General Support Technology Program).
• 12 May 2021: Nestled beside coastal dunes in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, ESTEC is ESA’s largest establishment and hub of Europe’s space efforts. Combining the downward view angle with defocused surrounding terrain, known as ‘tilt-shifting’, makes the entire sprawling complex appear miniaturized. 30)
Figure 38: An aerial image of ESA’s technical heart, the European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, making it look as if you could pick it up in your hands. This photo was taken during a hobby flight by ESA biomedical engineer Arnaud Runge.
- On the dune side stands the main building, home to ESA laboratories and mission teams, distinguished by an almost 200-m long main corridor. The central white-hued lab building extends forward from it. The small white dome beside it houses ESA’s Large Diameter Centrifuge for high-gravity testing.
- To the left of the main building is the restaurant and tower complex built by renowned Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck. On its right can be seen ESTEC’s Test Centre for full-scale testing of satellites, equipped with a suite of simulation facilities to reproduce every aspect of the space environment.
- In front of the car park to the left is the three-block T-building, home to ESA’s Galileo team, in the centre stands the Erasmus centre for human spaceflight with the headquarters of ESA’s Technology Transfer and Patent Office beside it.
• 10 May 2021: Today, ESA opened its Global Space Markets Challenge. This competition is intended to be a springboard into international markets for small promising space-based companies in Europe, specialized in upstream and downstream activities. 31)
- Developments within small European companies continue to advance Europe’s expertise in technologies, create jobs, stimulate the space economy and benefit daily life through applications such as telecommunication, science data, Earth observation and navigation. This competition serves to extend their reach into international markets.
- All entrants should meet the criteria set out in the general terms and conditions of the competition and send in their applications to ESA by 23 June 2021.
- Six SMEs (including start-up companies) with excellent internationalisation plans will win prizes and promotion opportunities, including the chance to showcase their business at the 72nd International Astronautical Congress (IAC), expected to take place in Dubai from 25–29 October 2021 and to connect with the investor community and with financial institutions.
- European space revenue in the upstream domain accounts for €9 billion – 35% of the global market. Revenue generated from downstream applications accounts for €70 billion which is just 25% of the global market.
- ESA, in line with its Agenda 2025, has set up this competition to grow and support European space-based businesses by improving their visibility and worldwide competitiveness to help them be part of opportunities in the global space market.
- Winners of the upstream category will also be offered the opportunity to attend an ESA event, such as the Industry Space Days. At this event winners of this category will be offered a company booth for a chance to network, create partnerships and introduce their business to a wider community of space-based companies and potential customers.
- In the downstream category, Eurisy, a European non-profit association of more than 15 national space agencies and other organisations involved in space activities, which is partnered with ESA in this competition, will offer the top six downstream companies, the opportunity to have their products or services showcased in a virtual reality environment. This environment will be available online as well as through a virtual reality headset which will be used by Eurisy and ESA at international events and fairs.
- On 10 September, ESA will announce 12 finalists. On 28 September, the delegates of the Industrial Policy Evolution Working Group (IPE-WG) will select the six best-placed applicants who will be proposed for nomination as winners to ESA’s Director General Josef Aschbacher who will grant the awards: three for the upstream category, and three for the downstream category.
Figure 39: On 20–22 September 2016, ESA opened its doors to welcome a record 1200 people from industry attending Industry Space Days 2016 at ESA’s Technology Centre ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands (image credit: ESA, M. Shaw)
• 30 April 2021: Lithuania signed an Association Agreement with ESA on 28 April 2021. This Association Agreement between ESA and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, builds on the successful results achieved under the previous frameworks of cooperation and enters into force for a duration of seven years. Comprising 18 Articles and two Annexes, it orchestrates the strengthening of Lithuania’s relations with ESA. 32)
- Ms Aušrin> Armonait>, Minister of Economy and Innovation, signed the Association Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and ESA on 28 April in Vilnius. Associate membership will become effective upon notification that respective internal procedures have been completed.
- Following its unanimous approval by Council, the Association Agreement was signed by ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher on 18 March 2021 at ESA Headquarters, in presence of the Ambassador of Lithuania to France.
- For about a decade, ESA and Lithuania have been engaged in various forms of cooperation, first under a general Cooperation Agreement, followed by a European Cooperating State (ECS) Agreement. The latter entered into force on 28 September 2015, with the signature of the Plan for European Cooperating States (PECS) Charter, and was lately extended for 12 months, until 27 September 2021.
- The Association Agreement will allow direct Lithuanian participation in the ESA’s optional programs, subject to the unanimous approval of respective participating states. Lithuanian delegates and advisers will be entitled to attend meetings of ESA Council and its subordinate bodies, and to vote on questions relating to the activities and programs in which Lithuania participates. The Lithuanian delegation to ESA is led by Mr Edvinas Grikšas from the Innovation Policy Division of the Ministry. The ambitions of Lithuania in space have also led to the establishment of the Lithuanian Space Office on 4 July 2019, currently headed by Ms Egl> Elena Šatait>, within the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA).
- The key existing competences in Lithuania can be summarized as follows: nanosatellites, propulsion system components, infrared based technologies, Earth observation downstream applications, optoelectronics (in particular laser technologies and photonics), life sciences, physical sciences, and radio frequency systems.
- Lithuania benefited from a significant legacy in space R&D. The fourth oldest observatory in Europe, the Vilnius University Astronomical Observatory, was established in 1753. Lithuanian scientists and engineers participated in Soviet aerospace activities, by developing systems and elements for the Mars programme, the Buran space shuttle, the Lunokhod rover, as well as carrying plant research in scientific satellites Bion-10 and Bion-11 and the Salyut and Mir space stations.
- In the 1990s, the expertise gained was used in NASA and ESA programs. In particular, Lithuanian astronomers participated in Hipparcos, SOHO and Gaia, supplying an analysis of the photometric systems, peculiar stars and interstellar extinction.
- The first two Lithuanian self-made nanosatellites (LituanicaSAT-1 and LitSat-1) were launched in January 2014 to the International Space Station, then deployed that February by JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata. They tested new technologies prior to reentering Earth’s atmosphere in September 2014. The third Lithuanian satellite (LituanicaSAT-2) was launched on 23 June 2017 by an Indian PSLV-XL rocket.
- ESA has now established formal relations with all the states that acceded to the European Union since 2004, and are thereby associated to the definition of an overall European Space Policy and participating with full rights and obligations in the EU Copernicus and Galileo programs.
- Lithuania followed Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland, Estonia, Slovenia and Latvia in joining the ECS status, a frame for cooperation dating back to 2001. The five first countries have become Member States between 2008 and 2015, while Slovenia and Latvia became Associate Members in 2016 and 2020 respectively. Lithuania was followed as an ECS by Slovakia, Bulgaria and Cyprus, while Malta and Croatia have concluded general Cooperation Agreements in 2012 and 2018.
- ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher stated that he was very much looking forward to the concrete implementation of the Association Agreement, through Lithuania’s steadily extending participation in ESA’s programs and activities.
• 07 April 2021: ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher has worked with our Member States to define new priorities and goals for ESA for the coming years. 33)
Figure 40: As of 1 March 2021, ESA has a new Director General: Dr Josef Aschbacher, who has taken up duty at ESA Headquarters in Paris, France (image credit: ESA, S. Corvaja)
- The Director General has set high ambitions for space in Europe – while ESA has a huge role to play, it also requires cooperation with the European Union, space industry and scientific community and the co-creation of a new vision for Europe in space.
- ESA Agenda 2025 outlines the challenges ahead – in the first instance for the next four years – but also for the longer term in maintaining and growing Europe’s role in the space economy. This means working with the European Union and with companies of all sizes involved in the space industry, as well as inspiring and encouraging educators, entrepreneurs and the next generation of space scientists and engineers, and all the professions needed to make great space missions. It also means developing the kind of programs and missions that ESA Member States can be proud of – new flagship missions in cooperation with European Union member states, and ESA-led missions to expand our knowledge as well as protecting Earth and its orbit.
- “Where does Europe want to be in 15 years from now?” asks the Director General. “Europe means of course the European Space Agency but also all the stakeholders in Europe – Member States, industry, the European Commission.
- “We have defined an Agenda, which for the next four years, puts ESA and puts space on track so we can be among the top space agencies in the world.”
- Read the Executive Summary, outlining five immediate priorities for ESA and a vision for the next four.
- Read the full Agenda 2025 document.
• 18 March 2021: ERS-1 satellite replica, now at the entrance of ESA/ESTEC. — Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, essential testing for future space missions continues in ESTEC's laboratories and its full-sized satellite Test Centre. 34)
Figure 41: A replica of Europe's first radar satellite ERS-1 stands beside the entrance of ESA's largest establishment and technical heart: ESTEC, the European Space Research and Technology Centre, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands (photo credit: ESA, G. Porter)
• 15 March 2021: This is ESA is an illustrated guide to what ESA is and what we do. It shows a range of our activities and missions at the cutting edge of space design and technology, from making space safer to monitoring climate change and exploring our Solar System. Available in all Member State languages, the brochure comes with an attractive space poster – both can be downloaded here. 35)
Figure 42: This is the visual component of the brochure, which takes you on a journey through ESA’s activities, showcasing how ESA is making space work for the benefit of humankind. The poster encapsulates these achievements in one dynamic image. But integrating our diverse space activities, including past, present and future missions, into one cohesive color poster was a challenge. In this interview, the poster’s designer explains how he achieved this and where he found his inspiration (image credit: ESA) 36)
- The poster represents some of ESA’s most influential space missions spanning the past 30 years, as well as some of the ambitious science and discovery programs planned for the next decade. The brief was given to designer Attilio Brancaccio, who also designed ESA’s Columbus anniversary posters and our collection of Space Safety and Security images.
- He explains that the initial approach to designing the poster was very much a collaborative process with the ESA team: “Initially we experimented with greater separation of the different areas representing the past, present and future missions, in terms of composition and layout. However, the main challenge was to create fluidity between the storylines and to get it to work in a balanced way.”
- The next approach was to create a visual timeline: “Of course, it’s not an exact timeline because there are areas where the past and present merge together. For example, the International Space Station (ISS) is shown near to Orion, which is an upcoming mission and above we have Rosetta, which is a mission that ended in 2016.”
- To create a cohesive image, diagonal lines were used to separate the different types of missions, while maintaining a fluid and dynamic feel. “If you look at the poster, you see there are five different bands – but you see it as just one design,” says Attilio. He adds that he then focused on balancing the different elements to find the best way to visually represent ESA’s story and heritage.
• 05 March 2021: Do you want to visit all ESA establishments and see what we’re doing to explore space and protect our planet? Now you can, by taking virtual tours from your own homes, thanks to the #DiscoverESA interactive experience. 37)
- #DiscoverESA gives you an opportunity to explore the full range of ESA’s activities through a set of thematic journeys: Sending Europe to the Moon, Improving Life on Earth, Building the Best Tools, Protecting our Environment, Safeguarding Space Activities and Understanding our Universe. During each journey, you will see how our various establishments work together to achieve our agency’s goals.
- #DiscoverESA provides you with a chance to visit all eight of our ESA establishments across Europe, including some unique insider views, something that would not be feasible otherwise. Many of these Establishments have not previously opened their doors to the public, making this experience all the more special.
- The #DiscoverESA platform offers a dynamic experience, with visitors choosing which journey to embark on, with the possibility of stopping, skipping or going further to learn more. Visitors can actively determine what they watch and learn, and pursue the paths that most interest them.
- Start your virtual journey here!
• 03 March 2021: Why does ESA send missions beyond our Earth? To explore unknown worlds, and better understand our place in the Universe. But that answer only gives part of the picture. The first thing people do when they first reach space is to turn back to see our homeworld. Looking down on our planet from above allows ESA with its global partners to monitor climate, disasters and environmental changes – to work together to protect our home. 38)
Figure 43: And danger comes from above as well as below: a close eye on our stormy Sun is vital to gather early warning of harmful space weather, while keeping an eye out for incoming asteroids. ESA has a responsibility to preserve the space environment into the future, by tackling the problem of orbital debris. Space connects us, powers our economies and improves all our lives, as well fostering innovation and inspiration. So ESA works to care for space, just as we do for Earth and its citizens (video credit: ESA)
• 01 March 2021: As of today, 1 March 2021, ESA has a new Director General: Dr Josef Aschbacher, who has taken up duty at ESA Headquarters in Paris, France. 39)
- The ESA Council appointed Dr Aschbacher in December 2020 as the next Director General of ESA, for a period of four years. He succeeds Prof. Jan Wörner, whose term of office ended in February 2021.
- Dr Aschbacher was previously ESA Director of Earth Observation Programs and Head of ESRIN, ESA’s centre for Earth Observation in Frascati, near Rome.
Figure 44: Photo of Josef Aschbacher (image credit: ESA)
• 10 February 2021: Our new brochure introduces ESA’s R&D department: the engineers charged with inventing the new technologies needed for Europe to push further out into space, and develop the novel services improving our lives here on Earth. 40)
- From hypersonic flight to space debris removal, lunar caving to asteroid mining, we’re working on it. When most people hear about topics like these, they think of science fiction; our engineers see puzzles to be solved.
- ESA’s Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality is one of ten Directorates making up the Agency. Our engineers know how to make otherwise impossible missions happen and keep Europe competitive in the global tech race.
Figure 45: Protective goggles. Engineer Giuditta Montesanti is pictured wearing protective goggles while preparing for a test firing of space thrusters in ESA’s Propulsion Laboratory. Lasers are used to align plasma-measuring probes within thruster plumes. Based at ESA’s technical centre ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, the Propulsion Laboratory specializes in the testing of ion engines and other thrusters that operate outside Earth’s atmosphere (image credit: ESA, Guus Schoonewille)
- When the majority of new ESA missions are dreamt up, the technology that makes them possible does not exist – yet. It is our job to identify the enabling innovations required, make them real and bring them up to a sufficient state of performance and reliability so that the right technology is ready at just the right time.
- We host an impressive range of in-house expertise on space technologies, made up of specialists covering every aspect of the space environment, and work in partnership with many of Europe’s most advanced companies and research institutions.
- Our experts set the course of research and development internally, and in projects done with industry and academia, from leading aerospace firms to tiny, smart start-ups.
- This is a crucial role, not just for future ESA missions but also for the wider European space industry.
- Innovation is an essential element of competitiveness and European industry must compete to survive, winning contract after contract on the global open market. Unlike many others, Europe’s space sector receives minimal government or military subsidies and more than pays its own way. If it didn’t, most ESA missions would swiftly become unaffordable, as would ESA itself.
- Advanced missions need advanced testing. To save time and money we offer industry unique infrastructure, which would not make economic sense to develop multiple times at multiple places for separate missions. We have pooled resources to make world-beating space laboratories and satellite-scale test facilities available to all European space (and indeed non-space) companies.
- From lab experiments to industrial prototypes, from dazzling ideas to reliable instruments, it’s imagination and dedication that drives our innovation.
• 28 January 2021: While most ESA personnel work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, essential activities continue to take place on site across Agency establishments while following social distancing protocols. 41)
Figure 46: In ESA’s Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory – one of a suite of labs based at the ESTEC technical center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands – testing has continued on critical elements for several missions and projects (image credit: ESA, Nuno Dias)
- For instance, the lab supported the ‘bakeout’ of the Filter Wheel Assembly for the PROBA-3 formation flying mission’s main ASPIICS instrument – which will image the Sun’s ghostly surrounding atmosphere, or ‘corona’ from one satellite while another satellite blocks out the blinding solar disk.
- The development of this payload was on the critical path, and the test had to be performed at very short notice just before Christmas. The successful bakeout took place with full personal protection measures in place, in order to host the customers arriving from abroad with the flight hardware.
- Focusing on mission external elements, thermal endurance tests are currently underway on multilayer insulation (MLI) materials and solar cell assemblies. These tests are being carried out using the XTES (eXtreme Temperature Exposure System) and XTES2 facilities – this latter facility having been procured and commissioned during the pandemic – which can reach and maintain incredibly high temperatures for long periods of time. For example, components of an MLI for the JUICE mission to Jupiter are undergoing a three-month test to address their thermal stability under mission representative conditions.
- The lab is also supporting the development of new radiation-resistant coatings, by exposing them to ultraviolet and vacuum-ultraviolet light in the Synergistic Temperature Accelerated Radiation 2 (STAR2) facility).
- All the environmental tests are aided by materials characterization and analysis with state-of-the-art equipment, such as microscopic and spectroscopic analysis, thermo-optical measurements, thermal analysis and more. So the lab’s work has not halted, despite COVID-19 restrictions, but is proceeding as smoothly as possible.
• 05 January 2021: ESA Preview 2021. 42)
Figure 47: As the world leaves annus horribilis 2020 behind it looks towards 2021 with a mixture of relief and expectations. And so it goes for the European Space Agency, ESA who’s future looks bright and very much exciting. 2021 will be a year in which Vega-C will make its maiden flight, two ESA astronauts start long-duration missions aboard the International Space Station, BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter rendezvous at Venus and ESA says goodbye to its Director General Jan Wörner as his tenure ends (video credit: ESA)
• 27 December 2020: An agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union will allow the UK to remain in the Copernicus Earth observation program after it formally exits the EU. 43)
- The UK and EU announced a broad agreement Dec. 24 governing the UK’s relationship with the EU once the country formally withdraws from the European Union, a process known as Brexit. The UK was facing a Jan. 1 deadline to complete a deal governing its relationship with the EU on issues such as trade, law enforcement and participation in EU-led programs.
- That agreement, more than 1,200 pages long, includes participation in some EU space programs. Specifically, it allows the U.K. to participate in Copernicus through the seven-year span of the EU’s latest multiannual financial framework, which starts in 2021.
- Under the deal, the UK “shall participate in the Copernicus component of the Space program and benefit from Copernicus services and products in the same way as other participating countries.” This includes the Copernicus Security Service, which uses Copernicus satellite data for border and maritime surveillance. A separate agreement between the EU and UK is required to define the UK’s use of that service.
- The deal ends uncertainty about what role, if any, the UK would have in EU space programs. Copernicus was particularly complicated because it is a joint program between the EU and European Space Agency, with both organizations contributing funding. While the UK is leaving the European Union, it remains a member state of ESA.
- “We hope that the UK can join the program in Brussels. This is the default option and this is what we hope for,” said Josef Aschbacher, director of ESA’s Earth observation programs, at a Dec. 17 press conference to announce he would be the agency’s next director general, effective in July 2021.
- The situation is different with Galileo, the EU satellite navigation program, which is not covered by the Brexit deal. Those programs are “100% financed” by the EU, with ESA as the implementing agency, noted Jan Wörner, current ESA director general, at the Dec. 17 briefing.
- Copernicus, by contrast, features “mixed participation” with ESA funding development of initial satellites in the Sentinel series and the EU paying for later satellites. “There we have some issues, especially also with industrial participation,” he said.
- A third EU space program, albeit much smaller than Galileo and Copernicus, is the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking program for space situational awareness. The UK government and private satellite operators based there will continue to have access to those services under the deal.
• 17 December 2020: Today, the ESA Council appointed Dr Josef Aschbacher as the next Director General of ESA, for a period of four years. He will succeed Prof. Jan Wörner, whose term of office ends on 30 June 2021. 44)
- Dr Aschbacher is currently ESA Director of Earth Observation Programs and Head of ESRIN, ESA’s center for Earth Observation near Rome.
- Born in Austria, Dr Aschbacher studied at the University of Innsbruck, where he obtained Masters and PhD degrees in Natural Sciences. He has over three decades of experience working in international organizations, including ESA, the European Commission, the Austrian Space Agency and Asian Institute of Technology.
Figure 48: Photo of Josef Aschbacher (image credit: ESA)
• 15 December 2020: Despite the challenges of 2020, ESA maintained its momentum on key missions and saw the launches of Solar Orbiter, Vega’s 16th flight and Sentinel-6, which are all covered in this full-color publication. It was a good year for amazing space pictures, with unprecedented images of the Sun, selfies taken by BepiColombo as it swung by Earth and then Venus, as well as incredible images of deep space from Hubble, which marked its 30th anniversary. Highlights 2020 also includes in-depth articles on the evolution of Vega launchers, ESA’s telecoms Partnership Projects and our future space weather missions. ESA Highlights 2020. 45)
• 18 November 2020: ESA’s Hertz radio frequency test chamber will be playing a supporting role in a forthcoming production at the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam. 46)
- The cavernous foam-lined space – located in ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands – was filmed by a team from filming company WE ARE WILL, along with a neighboring clean room, to serve as a futuristic backdrop to the events on stage.
- In next year’s Upload, a father and daughter travel to a very special clinic. The parent wants to give up his physical body and have his mind uploaded into a digital version of himself, to try and escape past trauma and achieve immortality. But why did he make this choice, and how will this change his relationship with his daughter?
- “The show is a hybrid of styles, set well into the future,” explains Michel Van der Aa, composer and director of the opera.
- ‘Hertz is an amazing, very theatrical looking space – which doubles in our production as the clinic’s scanning chamber. Then, for our climax, final stage of the uploading takes place in the other chamber we filmed at ESTEC, a clean room for satellite storage inside the Test Centre.”
Figure 49: Upload receives its premiere in Amsterdam on 20 March 2021 (photo credit: ESA-SJM Photography)
• 13 November 2020: Today, ESA signed contracts with Thales Alenia Space in France and in Italy, and Airbus in Spain to build three of the new high-priority Copernicus satellite missions: CHIME, CIMR and LSTM, respectively. Each mission is set to help address different major environmental challenges such as sustainable agriculture management, food security, the monitoring of polar ice supporting the EU Integrated Policy for the Arctic, and all will be used to understand climate change. 47)
- There are six Copernicus high-priority Sentinel Expansion missions planned to complement the current capabilities of the Sentinels and address EU policy priorities and gaps in Copernicus user needs.
- The development and operations of these Sentinel Expansion missions will be co-financed between the European Commission and ESA, subject to budget availability. These new industrial contacts kick off the key design phases for the missions, with the continuation to be confirmed in 2021.
- ESA has recently signed contracts for the development of two of the other six missions: the Copernicus Carbon Dioxide Monitoring mission and the Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimeter mission.
- These three new contracts also come at a time when industry and business are suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programs, Josef Aschbacher, said, “We are thrilled to sign these contracts with industry today. Not only because once built, each mission will address real environmental challenges and further Europe’s flagship Copernicus program, but also because we need to help keep our industrial partners in good shape during COVID-19, which has brought untold damage to the economy and employment security.
- “Despite the issues surrounding COVID-19, it is critical that we continue forging new space technologies, and continue developing, building and launching satellites that lead to new knowledge and services that ultimately benefit all humankind.”
- With a contract worth €455 million, Thales Alenia Space France will lead the development of the CHIME (Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission for the Environment). The contract was signed in the presence of Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of the Economy and Finance. The mission will carry a unique visible to shortwave infrared spectrometer.
- It will provide routine hyperspectral observations to support new and enhanced services for sustainable agricultural and biodiversity management, as well to characterize soil properties, which is key to vegetation health. The mission will complement Copernicus Sentinel-2 for applications such as land-cover mapping.
- ESA signed the contract for the development of the CIMR (Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer), mission with Thales Alenia Space Italy in the presence of the Under Secretary of the Council of Ministers of Italy, Riccardo Fraccaro. The contract is worth €495 million.
- Carrying a novel ‘conically-scanning’ multi-frequency microwave radiometer, the mission will measure sea-surface temperature, sea-ice concentration and sea-surface salinity. It will also observe a wide range of other sea-ice parameters such as sea-ice thickness and sea-ice drift. CIMR is being developed in response to high-priority requirements from key Arctic user communities and will support the EU Integrated Policy for the Arctic.
- The contract, worth €380 million,for the Copernicus LSTM (Land Surface Temperature Monitoring) mission, was signed with Airbus Spain in the presence of Pedro Duque, Spanish Minister of Science and Innovation.
- It marks the first time that Spain will lead the development of a Copernicus Sentinel mission. LSTM will carry a high spatial-temporal thermal-infrared sensor to deliver observations of land-surface temperature. Satellite data analysis for mapping, monitoring and forecasting Earth's natural resources helps to understand what, when and where changes are taking place. In particular, this mission will respond to the needs of European farmers to make agricultural production more sustainable as water shortages increase and changes in the environment take place.
- While these contracts are for the development of these three new exciting missions, full implementation relies on further agreements. This includes an agreement between ESA and the European Commission, including a joint positive decision by the Commission and ESA and their Member States to go from Phase B2 to Phase C/D for the prototype missions and to procure the recurrent satellite units. This decision point is planned in the second half of 2021.
- The European Copernicus flagship program provides Earth observation and in situ data, as well as a broad range of services for environmental monitoring and protection, climate monitoring and natural disaster assessment to improve the quality of life of European citizens.
- Copernicus is the biggest provider of Earth observation data in the world – and while the EU is at the helm of this environmental monitoring program, ESA develops, builds and launches the dedicated satellites. It also operates some of the missions and ensures the availability of data from third party missions.
- The European Commission’s Head of Unit for Earth Observation, Mauro Facchini, said, “Built on cooperation between the European Commission and ESA, Copernicus has been an outstanding success not only for Europe, but also for the rest of the world. Key environmental data and derived products are freely available for services and data users to improve the daily lives of all citizens. We are extremely pleased that these contracts are an important step towards the expansion of the suite of satellites delivering critical information, furthering the Copernicus program as a whole.”
• 04 November 2020: Hungary celebrates its fifth anniversary in ESA after becoming ESA’s 22nd and most recent Member State on 4 November 2015. 48)
- Hungary was the first central European State to sign a Cooperation Agreement with ESA in 1991. But by the time this cooperation began, Hungary could already look back on an extended tradition in space activities. With its participation in the Interkosmos program, Hungary sent the first Hungarian cosmonaut, Bertalan Farkas, into space on 26 May 1980.
Figure 50: Flag of Hungary (image credit: ESA)
- Hungary also became the first European Cooperating State with the signing of the ECS (European Cooperating State) Agreement on 7 April 2003. This was followed shortly after by the signing of the PECS Agreement (Plan for European Cooperating States) on 5 November 2003, which was extended until Hungary’s accession to the ESA Convention. The signing ceremony took place at the Palace of Arts in Budapest on 24 February 2015 and the ratification instrument was deposited with the Government of France on 4 November 2015.
- Today, Hungary is an active and successful member of the ESA family. This was shown at the Space19+ conference, where the Hungarian contributions to ESA optional programs made a significant leap forward in strongly focusing on Human Spaceflight, Space Safety, Earth Observation and Telecommunications. Compared to the 2016 Ministerial Council with a contribution of €16.1 million, Hungary’s participation rose to €97 million at Space19+ (Figure 82).
- Most recently, the first Hungarian Industry Days were organized in Budapest in October 2020. These were a big success, with 118 participants and great opportunities for Hungarian organizations to deepen their knowledge on ESA technology and application programs, and to also develop their network with the large European space companies.
- Aside from industrial involvement, Hungary has also taken part in several ESA educational activities, including ESA radar courses, student parabolic flight campaigns and the European Student Moon Orbiter project. Hungary’s first satellite, MaSat-1, a CubeSat-type satellite, developed and built by students at the Technical University of Budapest, was launched on the Vega rocket maiden flight in 2012.
- Since becoming ESA’s 22nd Member State in 2015, Hungary has proved to be an active and reliable member of ESA and the European space community with its involvement in more than 60 ESA projects, and an additional 114 contracts awarded during the preceding 12-year period of the PECS Agreement.
• 27 October 2020: Space technologies and satellite applications are poised to power green economic development in Europe in the coming years, creating jobs and boosting prosperity. 49)
- ESA has several green initiatives to foster economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic while promoting clean living and digital transformation. They seek to use disruptive technologies to transform urban green areas, improve air quality and offer space-based services for marine energy.
Figure 51: Space technologies and satellite applications are poised to power green economic development in Europe in the coming years, creating jobs and boosting prosperity (image credit: ESA)
- The agency is also planning to use space and 5G technologies to enable intelligent transport services. In smart cities, circularity can be enhanced by using space technologies to support public transport shifts towards zero carbon emissions and the dynamic mapping system of roads and traffic signals.
- “I strongly believe that remote sensing and further smart technologies will help humanity to fix the live-threatening impacts from climate heating and biodiversity loss,” says Alfred Schumm, Director of Innovation, Science and Technologies at the World Wide Fund for Nature in Germany.
- “Time is running out and actions are a must. Soon we will be able to monitor indicators for a sustainable economy, so that society will be able to take informed decisions for the benefit of nature and people.”
- Following the pandemic-induced economic crash, the European Commission proposed a major recovery plan that incorporates an earlier initiative called the Green Deal, which aims to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050, alongside an effort for digitization transformation.
- In response, ESA is inviting companies to start work on initiatives that will ignite the European economy while promoting green development and supporting the shift to digital services. It is offering financial and business support to entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses to bring their ideas to market.
- The initiatives cover areas ranging from energy efficiency to responsible agri-tech, from smart buildings and the management of urban green spaces, to transportation and restoring biodiversity.
- ESA is working with the Mirpuri Foundation, which supports sustainable development. “At the Mirpuri Foundation, we believe in the power of innovation and technology, working towards a more sustainable future. As partner of ESA, we can only praise its green initiatives and hope that they will ultimately generate a positive impact on the planet,” says Ana Agostinho, its Head of Public Relations.
- For example, satellites applications can be used to help plan, monitor, predict and improve renewable energy production, especially when complemented by artificial intelligence, the internet of things and remotely piloted aircraft systems.
- Green construction can make use of space-based data and internet-of-things sensors to locate new buildings in ecologically safe zones, conserve energy, reduce the heat island effect and support green renovations.
- Digital technologies, satellite navigation and satellite communication can improve smart mobility and logistics services, and help develop versatile transport plans improving air quality and energy efficiency.
- Finally the “Farm to Fork” program, enabled by satellite navigation, can enhance supply chains and reveal the origins of food to consumers. Satellite applications can improve responsible food production, prevent waste and food loss, and aid sustainable food processing and distribution.
- Ernesto Ciorra, Chief Innovability Officer at the Enel energy group, says: “Partnering with ESA gives Enel the opportunity to further boost the energy transition, by unlocking the tremendous value that can be generated through the application of space technologies in the energy sector.
- “We are committed to addressing what we call ‘global innovability challenges’. We will keep on striving for our planet, that’s why we want our network of partners to be composed of innovative, sustainable and open-minded members.”
- Rita Rinaldo, Head of the Partner-led and Thematic Initiatives in ESA’s Downstream Business Applications Department, said: “Over the past decade, ESA has initiated about 90 activities that relate to the EU’s Green Deal objectives. This represents an investment by National Delegations of more than €40 million, which doubles if industry’s contribution is considered.
- “ESA is well placed to use space to promote green growth in Europe and beyond, thanks to the extended network of partners that we have established, from Municipalities, to corporate networks, industrial associations and foundations active in the green economy. Entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises can access financial and business support to bring their ideas to market. We look forward to working with our partners, industry and other stakeholders to revitalize the European economy.”
• 21 October 2020: As space missions have become more complex, the teamwork needed on the ground has also become more sophisticated and challenging. Through almost four decades at the forefront of Europe’s voyages in space, Paolo Ferri went from Operations Engineer on the Eureca mission to Operations Manager of the four-spacecraft Cluster mission and then the Rosetta mission, followed by serving as Flight Director on Rosetta, Venus Express and GOCE. His career has been capped off by eight years as Head of Mission Operations for the Agency, overseeing all of ESA’s robotic mission operations. 50)
Figure 52: In five episodes of ‘Leadership at Mission Control’, Paolo takes us through major events in his career at ESA, covering cornerstone missions, first attempts, overcoming technical challenges, building diverse teams, working under pressure and solving the unexpected problems that are part of any space endeavor (video credit: ESA)
- In his third masterclass, Paolo shares what he has learnt going from an engineering expert with complete and specific knowledge of a single mission, to being responsible at a senior manager level for the success of dozens of missions operated by international teams each as diverse, unique and complex as the spacecraft they fly.
- With 36 years’ of experience at ESA, Paolo Ferri is responsible for mission operations, and he has played a leading role in ensuring the success of missions like Eureca, ESA’s first-ever reusable satellite; Cluster, one of the longest-flying science missions; Venus Express, Europe’s first exploration of Earth’s ‘evil twin’; and Rosetta, humanity’s first landing on a comet.
• 20 October 2020: A Madonna and Child painting with a history almost as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa’s smile has been identified as an authentic Raphael canvas by the Czech company InsightART, which used a robotic X-ray scanner to investigate the artwork. 51)
- The 500-year-old painting had long been attributed to Raphael, a contemporary of Leonardo Di Vinci and Michelangelo, but doubts about its authenticity occurred during its recent history.
- The Madonna and Child painting’s turbulent backstory encompasses some of Europe’s great historical figures, as well as violent fights and lucrative art deals. Commissioned by Pope Leo X, it has hung in the Vatican as well as passing through the hands of the French royal family and Napoleon. However at the end of the 19th century, the painting disappeared from the general consciousness. It is now part of a private collection.
- InsightART’s robotic X-ray scanner had earlier been used to identify a previously unknown painting by Vincent van Gogh. The machine uses a particle detector developed at CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics, that was repurposed for space exploration and manufactured by the Czech company ADVACAM.
Figure 53: That Raphael was in fact the creator of the masterpiece has been confirmed by expert studies from around the world as well as an international advisory board. This has now been further supported by InsightART, a start-up company based in the Czech Invest-operated ESA business incubation centre in Prague, which uses cosmic detector technology to examine artworks(image credit: Jiri Lautenkratz, InsightART)
- “This technology – which is also used to measure radiation at the International Space Station – is capable of detecting and counting single photons, as well as establishing their exact wavelength,” says Josef Uher, chief technical officer of InsightART.
Figure 54: Spectral X-ray images of the Madonna and Child painting (image credit: Jiri Lautenkratz, InsightART)
- “While the standard X-ray machine only creates a black and white image, the RToo scanner provides ‘color’ – or spectral – X-ray images, which allow the materials to stand out on the basis of their elemental composition,” he says.
- The artwork was scanned in great detail – from the foundation layers to the final glazes, revealing the internal structure of Raphael’s painting in detail.
- “During this process it became clear that the work was executed layer by layer by Raphael, without the aid of his workshop assistants and apprentices,” says Jiří Lauterkranc, an art restorer and co-founder of InsightART.
- The company received business advice and financial support from the ESA business incubation centre in Prague.
- “We are used to different kinds of technological applications which make use of satellite data, navigation systems, airplanes or satellites. However, the combination of space technology and art is very unconventional – this is the only project,” says Michal Kuneš, project manager of the ESA business incubation centre.
- The centre is part of ESA Space Solutions, which is the go-to place for great business ideas involving space in all areas of society and economy. Its mission is to support entrepreneurs in Europe in the development of businesses using satellite applications and space technology.
Figure 55: Madonna and Child optical and X-ray images (image credit: Jiri Lautenkratz, InsightART)
• 18 September 2020: Europe’s space community came together through two days of virtual presentations and business-to-business meetings during ESA’s online Industry Space Days on 16–17 September. 52)
Figure 56: ESA’s Industry Space Days on 16–17 September 2020 brought Europe’s space community together through two days of virtual presentations, round table discussions and thousands of prescheduled business-to-business meetings (image credit: ESA)
- A record 1900 participants registered for the event. Companies, including hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises, from ESA Member States, Cooperating States and Associate States networked via an online platform in thousands of prescheduled meetings over both days.
- The Industry Space Days (ISD), organized by ESA's SME Office (Small & Medium-sized Enterprises), normally take place at ESA’s Technical Centre in Noordwijk in the Netherlands. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ESA moved it online for the first time since its inception in 1999.
- “Holding this event online has not deterred the enthusiasm and drive of our space-based community,” commented Eric Morel de Westgaver, ESA Director of Industry, Procurement and Legal Services.
- “Establishing business partnerships and working together to strengthen Europe’s space economy through common goals, is at the core of this event.”
- ESA’s Director General, Jan Wörner opened ISD 2020 followed by presentations on business opportunities on ESA’s wide variety of space programs and activities. Industry leaders and associations also contributed in round-table discussions and presentations. Listeners could send in questions, which were answered by presenters.
- The second day included additional ESA presentations and a one-hour workshop on additive and advanced manufacturing given by ESA’s directorate of Technology and Engineering.
- Participants in the EIB Advisory Space Finance Lab discussed how the COVID-19 crisis has affected the space industry and what could be done to improve the conditions for European space companies.
- ESA hopes to host its next Industry Space Days on site at its European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands on 8–9 September 2021.
• 11 September 2020: This year’s ESA Open Day at ESTEC in the Netherlands is taking place on an online basis. Continuing COVID-19 restrictions make it impossible to let people on site in person, but participants will still enjoy virtual tours of the extensive establishment, get unique close-up views of space hardware and interact directly with astronauts and space experts. 53)
- This will be the ninth annual ESA Open Day at ESTEC, taking place on Sunday 4 October, and will be open to participants from across Europe and the world.
- The Open Day has become an annual highlight, and we regret not being able to welcome people into ESTEC this year,” comments Franco Ongaro, head of ESTEC and ESA’s Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality.
- “Instead we will use technology to make people feel like they are right with us on site. We have adapted to the situation as best we can, and our work has resumed its usual pace, so we have lots of exciting activities to share with the wider public.”
- Participants will sign in to a virtual auditorium, then be free to choose which ‘rooms’ they attend. Many of the most popular highlights of previous years will be on offer, including space careers talks from ESA Human Resources, details of ESA Education’s work with school and university students and Space Rocks and Space Story Tellers giving new perspectives on space and society.
- The Netherlands Space Office will present the work done by Dutch companies and researchers in the space sector. Participants can also go on a virtual backstage tour of the ESTEC Test Centre, which is specially equipped to check space missions are ready to fly into orbit. Guest astronauts will give talks and field questions – full details of the guest list will come later this month.
- The ESA Open Day at ESTEC 2020 will have the theme of ‘ESA and the Environment’. Space professionals knows the importance of sustainability: the finite resources of a space mission must be managed carefully to keep it running. The same is true down here on spaceship Earth.
- The virtual Open Day will focus on the many ways space is safeguarding the environment, through satellite-based Earth observation for environmental monitoring, as well as recycling technologies developed for astronauts in space habitats then applied to daily life.
- The efforts made to operate ESTEC and other ESA establishments in an environmentally friendly manner will also be highlighted – because we all live on the same blue planet.
- There will be an official registration for the online element of the Open Day, with a single ticket per household. More details will follow soon.
Figure 57: Photo of ESA’s ESTEC technical centre (image credit: ESA, SJM Photography)
- On the left of the image can be seen ESTEC’s Test Centre for full-scale testing of satellites, equipped with a suite of simulation facilities to reproduce every aspect of the space environment.
- In the centre is the main building, home to ESA laboratories and mission teams, distinguished by an almost 200-m long main corridor. To the right of the main building is the restaurant and tower complex built by renowned Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck in the late 1980s.
- On the other side of the car park is the two-tone square-shaped Erasmus building, focused on human spaceflight, and to its right is the T building, home to ESA’s Galileo team.
- This photo was taken during a weekend flight by ESA biomedical engineer Arnaud Runge.
- Come see ESTEC for yourself during the annual ESA Open Day on Sunday, 7 October 2020.
• September 2020: The view from the top of ESTEC, ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. 54)
- ESTEC is ESA’s largest establishment, the technical heart of the Agency. The site is devoted to program management, technology development and satellite testing. This year’s ninth ESA Open Day at ESTEC is taking place on Sunday 4 October on an online basis. To participate you need to register.
Figure 58: This picture east from ESTEC’s laboratory block towards the main entrance, with the flags of the ESA’s Member States seen flying to the right of center. To the left is the T-building, home of ESA’s Navigation Directorate. The set of rooftop antennas belong to ESTEC’s Telecom Laboratory (image credit: ESA, G. Porter)
• 01 September 2020: Estonia has a long tradition of space research, characterized by the Tartu Observatory, which was once one of the largest telescopes in the world and today is Estonia’s main research centre for astronomy and atmospheric physics. 55)
Figure 59: Estonia celebrates its fifth anniversary in ESA after becoming ESA’s 21st Member State on 1 September 2015 (image credit: ESA)
Since 2010, Estonia has been strongly involved in more than 50 ESA-related projects and has developed capabilities in the downstream sector, particularly in the area of Earth observation and PNT applications. In 2013, Estonia joined the group of spacefaring nations with the launch of its first indigenous small satellite, ESTCube-1, with the purpose of testing an electric solar-wind sail.
As the first Baltic state, Estonia’s cooperation with ESA started with the signature of a Cooperation Agreement on 20 June 2007 in Tallinn and was strengthened through the European Cooperating State Agreement signed on 10 November 2009.
Estonia took a further step in its relations with ESA by signing the Accession Agreement to the ESA Convention on 4 February 2015. The signing ceremony took place at the ESA Headquarters in Paris with the participation of, among others, then ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications responsible for Foreign Trade and Entrepreneurship Anne Sulling, Member of Parliament and Head of Estonian Space Committee Ene Ergma and the Estonian Ambassador in France Sven Jürgenson.
Following the signing, the process of ratification by the Estonian government began and was concluded on 1 September 2015, when Estonia deposited its instrument of ratification of the ESA Convention in Paris, to become officially ESA’s 21st Member State.
Ever since, Estonia has successfully proved to be an active, present and reliable part of ESA and the European space community.
• 23 June 2020: This is ESA — an illustrated guide to what ESA is and what we do. It shows a range of our activities and missions at the cutting edge of space design and technology, from making space safer to monitoring climate change and exploring our Solar System. 56) 57)
The brochure comes with an attractive space poster —both of the newest brochures (Czech and Polish) can be downloaded here.
Figure 60: This is ESA's behind the scenes poster — a visual component of the brochure, which takes you on a journey through ESA’s activities, showcasing how ESA is making space work for the benefit of humankind. The poster encapsulates these achievements in one dynamic image. But integrating our diverse space activities, including past, present and future missions, into one cohesive color poster was a challenge. In this interview, the poster’s designer explains how he achieved this and where he found his inspiration (image credit: ESA, Attilio Brancaccio)
ESA Corporate News continued
The poster represents some of ESA's most influential space missions spanning the past 30 years, as well as some of the ambitious science and discovery programs planned for the next decade. The brief was given to designer Attilio Brancaccio, who also designed ESA's Columbus anniversary posters and our collection of Space Safety and Security images.
He explains that the initial approach to designing the poster was very much a collaborative process with the ESA team: "Initially we experimented with greater separation of the different areas representing the past, present and future missions, in terms of composition and layout. However, the main challenge was to create fluidity between the storylines and to get it to work in a balanced way."
The next approach was to create a visual timeline: "Of course, it's not an exact timeline because there are areas where the past and present merge together. For example, the International Space Station (ISS) is shown near to Orion, which is an upcoming mission and above we have Rosetta, which is a mission that ended in 2016."
Figure 61: To create a cohesive image, diagonal lines were used to separate the different types of missions, while maintaining a fluid and dynamic feel. "If you look at the poster, you see there are five different bands – but you see it as just one design," says Attilio. He adds that he then focused on balancing the different elements to find the best way to visually represent ESA's story and heritage (image credit: ESA, Attilio Brancaccio)
On the left-hand side of the poster, three figures represent an astronaut, a scientist and an engineer, who gaze out across space. The female astronaut, who wears a patch containing the flags of ESA's 22 member states, looks upwards towards the ringed planet Saturn, where the Cassini-Huygens mission is orbiting. The light from her EVA spacesuit shines on the spacewalker in the next section of the poster, who is attached to the ISS, flying 400 km above the green and blue shapes of planet Earth.
Just above the ISS, the Orion spacecraft can be seen on a future journey to the Moon. Rosetta and the icy grey comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko are seen in the upper central area of the poster. And in the next panel, we see the Ariane and Vega family of launchers, together with Space Rider, zoom up towards the top-right corner.
To the right of the rockets, a scene shows a futuristic Moon village, complete with the artist's impression of a moon lander. This was inspired by the Prospect mission, a partnership between ESA and Roscosmos. In the same scene, BepiColombo can be seen on its journey to Mercury.
In the lower right corner, Rosalind the ExoMars Rover explores an imagined Martian city on the Red Planet, while the Mars Sample Return mission can be seen in the background heading back to Earth on board the Mars Ascent Vehicle.
So what was the designer's technique and inspiration for creating this image? After researching images of the ESA missions and with input from the ESA editor and designers, Attilio then sketched different ideas and compositions. One of the challenges was to depict the past missions in a realistic way, while some artistic licence was needed to imagine the future programs. For example, the images of the Rosetta spacecraft and BepiColombo had to reflect the actual missions, while the Moon village and the futuristic Martian city required some creative thinking.
The final image is the result of experimentation with layout and color, both on paper and using digital design tools. The designer explains: "This process enabled me to find a balanced placement for the different images. Once we had agreed on the style of the illustration and the composition, then I started to create the final design with professional illustration software."
One of the key factors in creating a poster that really encapsulates the spirit of ESA was to find the perfect match between theme and style. Posters from the golden age of space and Moon discovery were a strong influence. Attilio was then able to add a 21st century feel using a fresh, modern color palette. He says: "I found myself inspired by the style of the 1960s and 70s era of US and Russian space missions. During those years there were amazing designs about space using the visual element to create the dream of future space exploration." More than half a century later, ESA is more focused than ever on making this dream a reality.
Figure 62: The designer's hand-drawn sketches show the creative development behind the poster (credit: Attilio Brancaccio)
• 30 May 2020: After celebrating the 50th anniversary of the European space cooperation in 2014, we now mark 45 years since the signing of the Convention for the creation of a single European Space Agency on 30 May 1975. 58)
- The idea of building an independent space capability in Europe dated back to the early 1960s when six European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) formed the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO) to develop a heavy launcher, later called ‘Europa'.
- Those same countries, plus Denmark, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, established the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO) soon after, to undertake mainly scientific satellite programs. Signed in 1962, their Conventions entered into force in 1964.
- In 1975, a convention was drafted at diplomatic and ministerial level to set up one ‘European space agency', and broadening the scope of the agency's remit to include operational space applications systems, such as telecommunications satellites.
- ESRO and ELDO operations ended, the activities of the former being continued under the name of ESA and taken as the core of the new organisation, while the latter, which had already terminated its programs, was dissolved.
- On 15 April 1975, at the last European Space Conference in Brussels, European ministers adopted the final version of the ESA Convention. This document was opened for signature until 31 December 1975.
- It was signed by the representatives of ESRO and ELDO at the European Space Conference in Paris on 30 May 1975, and Ireland signed in December the same year. The ESA Convention entered into force on 30 October 1980, with the deposit of the last instrument of ratification by France.
Figure 63: Signing of the ESA Convention on 30 May 1975 at the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Paris, Mr Michel d'Ornano, French minister, signing the ESA Convention. From left, Danish ambassador Mr Paul Fischer, Spanish ambassador, Mr Miguel Maria de Lojendio e Irure, Mr d'Ornano, and Irish ambassador, Hugh McCann. Behind, Secretary of the European Space Conference, Mr Michel Bourély (image credit: ESA)
- Since then, the original members have been joined by Austria and Norway (1986), Finland (1995), Portugal (2000), Greece and Luxembourg (2005), the Czech Republic (2008), Romania (2011) and Poland (2012). The latest to join are Estonia and Hungary, which signed accession agreements in February 2015, to become the 21st and 22nd ESA Member States, respectively.
- Seven other EU states are European Cooperating States or have Cooperation Agreements with ESA: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Slovakia. Slovenia is now an Associate Member. Canada also participates in some programs under long-standing Cooperation Agreements, the first of which was signed in 1979.
- Many successes have been achieved in all areas of space activities since the creation of ESA, all successes of European space industry, laboratories and research centers.
- Over the past 45 years, for example, Europe has marked a series of firsts in the exploration of our Universe: from an encounter with Comet Halley in 1986 (Giotto), parachuting a probe on to Saturn's moon Titan in 2005 (Huygens) and landing on a comet in 2014 (Rosetta/Philae), to studying our Sun in unprecedented detail (SOHO) and producing the most detailed map ever created of the Cosmic Microwave Background – the relic radiation from the Big Bang (Planck), to name a few.
- ESA has also developed a range of launchers (Ariane and Vega), using a European launch site in French Guiana (Europe's Spaceport, CSG). To have access to space is the first enabling element in the utilization of space and the many benefits this brings.
- ESA has developed one of the most complex Earth observation satellites (Envisat), is managing the space component of Copernicus, the most ambitious Earth observation operational program to date, and has made many more breakthroughs and innovations in technology, navigation (Galileo) and satellite communications.
- European astronauts have been taking part in human spaceflight missions for over three decades, and ESA is a fully-fledged partner in developing and operating the International Space Station (having provided the Columbus lab module and five ATV supply vehicles, among other elements, for example). Today, ESA is developing the European Service Module for NASA's Orion spacecraft, and is ensuring that Europe plays a key role in the future international exploration of space, including missions to the Moon and beyond.
- Over time, stakeholder interests and partnership expectations change. Geopolitical and space-related environments become increasingly interwoven. In the 1970s, ESRO and ELDO were transformed into ESA in response to different needs of the space arena of those days. ESA has carried forward this readiness and ability to respond to change by applying its ‘normative' framework to new situations and in new ways.
- This framework has not lost its ability to adapt, putting us in the best position to serve the space community: enhancing the benefits delivered by space systems to more Member States and their citizens. ESA's Convention was visionary enough to allow such evolution.
Figure 64: An ESA astronaut patch with 22 Member State flags floats in the Cupola during Thomas Pesquet's Proxima mission on the International Space Station in 2017 (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• 27 May 2020: With most European states in lockdown because of COVID-19, ESA has continued to operate its space missions. Scientific, exploration, Earth observation, climate and technology testbed satellites are continuing to produce data and provide vital services. 59)
- Since early March, the majority of the workforce at ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, have been working from home. But despite the constraints this involves, mission controllers have overseen complex maneuvers and procedures. These have included testing a laser space communications system, space debris avoidance maneuvers, a dramatic Earth flyby and even recovering a spacecraft after it experienced a major power failure.