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ESA is the abbreviation of the European Space Agency.
ESA, the European Space Agency was established in 1975. ESA is an inter-governmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space. ESA has 17 member states. ESA's headquarters are in Paris, France. ESA has a staff (excluding sub-contractors and national space agencies) of about 1,900 with an annual budget of about €3 billion in 2006.
ESA's spaceport is the Centre Spatial Guyanais (Guyana Space Centre) in Kourou, French Guiana, a site chosen because it is close to the Equator from which commercially important orbits are easier to access. During the 1990s ESA gained the position of market leader in commercial space launches and in recent years ESA has established itself as a major player in space exploration.
ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, and the European Astronauts Centre (PACI), that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany.
History and goals of ESA, the European Space Agency. ESA missions.
Since the Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Union's "iron curtain," space agencies around the world had to refocus and revise their visions and goals. In an interview with JAXA, the Japanese Space Agency, Jean-Jacques Dordain ESA's Director General (since 2003) outlined briefly the European Space Agency's mission:
History and foundation of ESA, the European Space Agency.
After the Second World War many European scientists had left Western Europe in order to work either in the US or the Soviet Union. Although the booming recovering process of the 1950s made it possible for Western European countries to invest into research and specifically into space related activities, Western European scientists realised solely national projects would not be able to compete with the two major superpowers. In 1958, only months after the Sputnik shock, Edoardo Amaldi and Pierre Auger, two prominent members of the Western European scientific community at that time, met to discuss the foundation of a common Western European space agency. The meeting was attended by scientific representatives from eight countries, including Harrie Massey (UK).
The Western European nations decided to have two different agencies, one concerned to develop a launch system ELDO (European Launch Development Organisation) and the precursor of the European Space Agency, and ESRO (European Space Research Organisation) that was established on March 20, 1964 per an agreement signed on June 14, 1962. From 1968 to 1972 ESRO celebrated its first successes. Seven research satellites were brought into orbit, all by US launch systems.
The ESRO's successor organisation ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre, based in Noordwijk, the Netherlands) is still a part of ESA, though ESA itself is a much bigger organisation today. The ESA in its current form was founded in 1974, when ESRO was merged with ELDO. The ESA was constituted of 10 founding members: Belgium, Germany, Denmark, France, United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. ESA launched its first major scientific mission in 1975, Cos-B, a space probe monitoring gamma-ray emissions in the universe.
ESA: from its beginnings to a leading institution.
Beginning in the 1970s, when the space race between the US and the Soviet Union had tuned down and space budgets were cut dramatically in both superpowers, ESA established itself as a forerunner in space exploration. ESA joined NASA and the UK in the IUE, the world's first high-orbit telescope, which was launched in 1978 and operated very successfully for 18 years. A number of successful Earth-orbit projects followed, and in 1986 ESA began Giotto, its first deep-space mission, to study the Comets Halley and Grigg-Skejllerup. Hipparcos, a star-mapping mission, was launched in 1989 and in the 1990s SOHO, Ulysses and the Hubble Space Telescope were all jointly carried out with NASA. Recent scientific missions in cooperation with NASA include the Cassini-Huygens space probe, to which ESA contributed by building the Titan landing module Huygens.
As the successor of the ELDO, ESA has also constructed rockets for unmanned scientific and commercial payloads. Ariane 1, launched in 1979, brought mostly-commercial payloads into orbit from 1984 onward. The next two developments of the Ariane rocket were intermediate stages in the development of a more advanced launch system, the Ariane 4, which operated between 1988 and 2003 and did establish ESA as the world leader in commercial space launches in the 1990s. Its successor, the Ariane 5 rocket, has established itself within the heavily competitive commercial space launch market since its first successful flight in 1997 and prospectively will reach 25 successful launches by 2006.
The beginning of the new millennium saw ESA become, along with agencies like NASA, JAXA, and Roscosmos, one of the major participants in scientific space research. While ESA had relied on cooperation with NASA in previous decades, especially the 1990s, changed circumstances (such as tough legal restrictions on information sharing by the United States military) led to decisions to rely more on itself and on cooperation with Russia. A recent press issue thus stated:
Most notable for its new self-confidence are ESA's own recent successful missions Smart-1, a probe testing cutting-edge new space propulsion technology, the Mars Express mission as well as the development of the Ariane 5 rocket.
Further goals and aims of ESA.
ESA has ambitious space plans that may be divided into three large categories. First, ESA will maintain its scientific and research projects (e.g. tests and developments of new propulsion systems), try to find ways to reduce costs for their rocket fleet while enhancing their capacities, honour its commitments regarding the ISS and engage in further Space exploration like the Venus Express mission that was launched in late 2005. The second category has many parallels to NASA's plans and constitutes of astronomy-space missions such as the Planck Surveyor studying the cosmic microwave background (2008), the Herschel space observatory (2008), Corot that will be a milestone in the search for extrasolar planets and is due to launch in 2007 or the Darwin interferometer.
While the projects described above are more or less similar in their structure and aim as NASA's and other space agencies' plans, the ESA's Mars project is different. The Aurora Programme lays out a time table for future missions to Mars, however in contrast to NASA's plans there is no emphasis on manned or unmanned lunar missions, it rather includes several flagship missions designed to develop and test technology needed for a manned European Mars mission currently planned for 2030. Among these flagship missions is ExoMars, a mission involving a Mars rover. Until 2005 ExoMars was planned to be a joint mission between NASA and ESA, however obstacles such as American technology law that prohibits sharing of classified space technology information led to ESA deciding to go for it alone. The mission is currently planned to launch in 2013. An even more ambitious Mars project is the Mars Sample Return Mission, that is planned as a follow-up mission to ExoMars. It will involve the first time a probe will return of samples from another planet, making it necessary to construct an ascent module that is capable of starting into Mars orbit and dock with the original probe.
Among the action for returning to the society the investment, they have developed the SCOS 2000 satellite control center, and they allow the use of it free of charge to any European firm.
Member countries, budget and organisations of ESA.
ESA comprises the national space organisations and other entities of these seventeen countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Many countries are likely to join ESA in the coming years, especially the countries who were part of the EU-enlargement in 2004. In addition ESA entered into important partnership agreements with non-member countries:
Languages spoken at ESA.
All meetings of the agency are held in English, French and German, with translation provided. All official documents are also available in these three languages although other documents are only published in French and English.
ESA relationship with the European Union.
The ESA is not within the structures of the European Union (EU)-note that its membership contains non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Norway. Switzerland and Norway are, however, within the EFTA. There are ties between those organisations, with various agreements in place and being worked on, to establish the legal status of ESA with regard to the EU. There are common goals between ESA and the EU, and ESA has an EU liaison office in Brussels.
Budget of ESA.
The budget of ESA was announced as €2.977 billion for 2005 (a ten percent increase on 2004) and for 2006 is estimated at €2.904 billion. A large part of ESA's budget is invested in ESA's launch vehicles that are currently the most expensive part of ESA's activities (Twenty-two percent of the budget goes into launch vehicles; human space flight is second in budget expenditures). In 2005, the three largest contributors, together funding two thirds of ESA's budget, are France (29.3%), Germany (22.7%) and Italy (14.2%).
An important ministerial conference approved nearly all of ESA's budget requests in December 2005. The budget for the mandatory ESA programme, parts of the optional programme (i.e. optional for ESA's member states such as the ISS involvement) as well as important projects such as Aurora or the EU-backed Galileo navigation system have been approved. No decision has been reached with regard to ESA's involvement in the Russian Kliper project, a feasibility study worth €50 million was not approved. ESA's budget will stay at about the same, however inflation-adjusted, level as 2005 throughout the next 5 years.
ESA comparison with NASA.
In comparison with NASA's budget of sixteen billion dollars (€13 billion), ESA's budget of €3 billion superficially looks considerably less. However, in order to make a true comparison on funding levels between the U.S. and those European nations involved with the ESA, more factors have to be considered:
ESA comparison with other space agencies.
In terms of absolute cash budget size, the ESA has the second largest budget after NASA, with the Japanese JAXA having annual funds of €1.6 billion at its disposal taking the third place, followed by the ambitious Chinese Space Agency with around €1 billion and the Russian Space Agency which incurred a considerable boost in funding in 2006 with an annual federal budget of $800-900 million. The Indian Space Agency has about the same amount of funds available as Russia. If not counted as part of Europe's total space budget (ex-Russian) together with ESA's €3 billion space budget (as outlined above) and other European space agencies, the French Space Agency would be in 4th place with €1.7 billion.
One point in favour of the Russian Space Agency, the Chinese and the Indian space programmes, is that their budgets are growing rapidly largely stemming from the high growth rates of their economies, which leads to increasing amounts of money available with the government.
It should be noted that space programmes have high labour costs, thus in order to compare the actual funds available for each space agency some adjustment with regard to purchasing power parity in each country should be made. As PPP is 5.5 for India and 4.5 for China, their space programme budgets are actually worth more than the absolute euro/dollar figures. Still, considering that Russia, Europe, the US, China, India and Japan are all competing in commercial space launches and costs for rocket launches are in the same range for all of the forementioned countries, it seems that a modifier lower than 4 or 5 would be warranted for a true comparison of national space funding. A very good example of the true comparison of funding is the Russian Space Agency which partly due to its large experience in LEO manned space flight but also due to a higher purchasing power parity could sustain a manned space program comparable to NASA throughout the last 15 years despite its dramatically lower budget.
ESA and other notable national space agencies.
ESA launch vehicle fleet.
ESA has made great progress towards its goal of having a complete fleet of launch vehicles in service, competing in all sectors of the launch market. ESA's fleet will soon consist of three major rocket designs, Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega. Rocket launches are carried out by Arianespace, an ESA subsidiary (a minority share is held by EADS as well), at ESA's spaceport in French Guiana. Because many communication satellites have equatorial orbits, launches from French Guiana are able to take larger payloads into space than from other northern spaceports. In addition equatorial launches give spacecrafts an extra 'push' of nearly 500 m/s due to the higher rotation velocity of someone standing on the equator than near the Earth's axis where rotation velocity approaches nil.
ESA and the Ariane 5.
The Ariane 5 rocket is the primary launcher of the ESA. Its maximum estimated Payload is 6-10 metric tons to GTO and up to 21 metric tons to LEO. The launch craft has been in service since 1997 and replaced the Ariane 4. The Ariane rocket exists in several specifications, the heaviest one of these is the Ariane 5 ECA that has been successfully launched in February 2005 for the first time, after it failed during its first test flight in 2002.
ESA's Ariane 1, 2, 3 and 4 launchers (the latter of which was ESA's long time workhorse) have been retired.
ESA and the Soyuz launch vehicle.
Soyuz is a Russian medium Payload (ca. 3 metric tons to GTO) launcher to be brought into ESA service in 2007. ESA has entered into a €340 million joint venture with the Russian Federal Space Agency over the use of the Soyuz launcher. Under the agreement, the Russian agency will manufacture Soyuz rocket parts for ESA, which will then be shipped to French Guiana for assembly. ESA benefits because it gains a medium payloads launcher, complementing its fleet while saving on development costs. In addition, the Soyuz rocket-which has been the Russian's space launch workhorse for some 40 years-is proven technology with a good safety record, which ESA might be happy to use for launching humans into space. Russia also benefits in that it will get access to the Kourou launch site. Launching from Kourou rather than Baikonur will allow the Russians to almost double the Soyuz payload (3.0 tonnes vs. 1.7 tonnes), because of Kourou's closer proximity to the equator. Both agencies benefit from the long term strategic cooperation that in addition will be used to jointly develop future technology. It is perhaps worth noting that France (ESA's largest contributor) has historically had good relations with Russia, which contributed to reaching the agreement.
Vega is ESA's small payload (ca. 1.5 metric tons to 700 km orbit) launcher; its first launch is planned for 2007. The leading ESA's member state for the Vega Programme is Italy contributing 65% of the costs. Vega itself has been designed to be a body launcher with three solid propulsion stages and an additional liquid propulsion upper module to place the cargo into the exact orbit intended. For a small-cargo rocket it is remarkable that Vega will be able to place multiple payloads into orbit.
History of ESA, the European Space Agency.
At the time ESA was formed, its main goals did not encompass human space flight, rather it considered itself to be primarily a scientific research organisation for unmanned space exploration in contrast to its American and Soviet counterparts. It is therefore not surprising that the first non-Soviet European in space was not an ESA astronaut on a European space craft: It was Czechoslovak Vladimir Remek who in 1978 became the first non-Soviet European in space (the first European in space being Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union) - on a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft, followed by the Pole Miroslaw Hermaszewski and East German Sigmund Jähn in the same year. This Soviet cooperation programme, known as Intercosmos, primarily involved the participation of Eastern bloc countries, however in 1982, Jean-Loup Chrétien became the first western European cosmonaut on a flight to the Soviet Salyut 7 space station.
Because Chrétien did not officially fly into space as an ESA astronaut, but rather as a member of the French CNES astronaut corps, the German Ulf Merbold is considered the first ESA astronaut to fly into space. He participated in the STS-9 space shuttle mission that included the first use of the European built Spacelab in 1983. STS-9 marked the beginning of an extensive ESA/NASA joint partnership that included dozens of space flights of ESA astronauts in the following years. Beside paying for seats on the Space Shuttle, ESA continued its human space flight cooperation with the Soviet Union and later Russia, including numerous visits to Mir.
During the latter half of the 1980s, European human space flights changed from being the exception to routine and therefore, in 1990, the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany was established. It selects and trains prospective astronauts and is responsible for the coordination with international partners especially with regards to the International Space Station. as of 2006, the ESA corps officially counts 12 members, including nationals from all the large Western European countries except the United Kingdom.
ESA Astronaut Corps.
The 16 men who have trained as astronauts under the auspices of the ESA are:
Of this list Umberto Guidoni, Michel Tognini, Gerhard Thiele and Philippe Perrin have retired, which leaves 12 ESA astronauts in active status, among whom two, Fuglesang and Nespoli, have not flown yet. Claude Nicollier is scheduled to retire soon.
ESA astronauts to have visited the ISS are:
ESA own manned launch vehicles.
In the 1980s France pressed for an independent European manned launch vehicle. Around 1978 it was decided to pursue a reusable spacecraft model and starting in November 1987 a project to create a mini-shuttle by the name of Hermes was introduced. The craft itself was modelled comparable to the first proposals of the Space Shuttle and constituted of a small reusable spaceship that would carry 3 to 5 astronauts and 3 to 4 metric tons of payload for scientific experiments. With a total maximum weight of 21 metric tons it would have started from the parallelly developed Ariane 5 rocket. It was planned solely for use in LEO space flights. The planning and pre-development phase concluded in 1991, however the production phase was never fully implemented because at that time the political landscape had changed significantly. With the fall of the Soviet Union ESA looked forward to a cooperation with Russia to build a next-generation human space vehicle. Thus the Hermes programme was cancelled in 1995 after about 3 billion dollars had been invested.
In the 21st century ESA started new programmes in order to create an own manned spacecraft, most notably among its various projects and proposal is Hopper where a prototype built by EADS called Phoenix has already been tested. While projects such as Hopper are neither concrete nor to be realised within the next decade, a new possibility has emerged. Following talks with the Russian Space Agency in 2004 and June 2005 a cooperation between ESA and the Russian Space Agency was announced to jointly work on the Russian designed Kliper shuttle, a reusable spacecraft that would be available for space travel beyond mere LEO (e.g. the moon or even Mars). Kliper constitutes the Russian counterpart to the American Crew Exploration Vehicle programme. Kliper may see its first launch as early as 2012. It was speculated that Europe could finance part of it (development costs have recently been announced as 16 bn rubles which amounts solely to around €500 million) and that it would even be possible that the lighter version of Kliper take off on an enhanced Soyuz rocket from both from French Guiana and Baikonur.
However a €50 million participation study for Kliper, which was expected to be approved in December 2005, was finally not validated by the ESA member states. As a consequence, the participation of ESA remains an outstanding question. The situation is that the executive of ESA and its Human Spaceflight Directorate support Kliper, while the main contributing countries, and in particular Germany, Italy and France, oppose the initiation of a new human space transportation project that would have ESA only be a junior partner in any project. Jean-Jacques Dordain has hinted that a decision on ESA's involvement in the project could be made as soon as June, 2006. In June 2006 ESA memberstates granted 15 million to the Advanced Crew Transportation System (ACTS) study, a two year study to design a spacecraft capable of going beyond LEO. This project is pursued with Roskosmos and has been labeled a successor-project to Kliper. A decision on the actual implementation and construction of the ACTS spacecraft is contemplated for 2008.
Projects of ESA. ESA: International Space Station.
With regard to the ISS ESA is not representing all its member states: 5 of the 16 countries have opted out because of either concerns on the expenses of the project or lack of interest. ESA is taking part in the construction and operation of the ISS with contributions such as the Columbus orbital facility, a science laboratory module that will be brought into orbit after NASA's Space Shuttle goes back into service or the Cupola observatory module that was completed in July 2005 by Alenia Spazio for ESA. The current estimates for the ISS are approaching €100 billion in total (development, construction and 10 years of maintaining the station) of which ESA has committed itself to pay €8 billion. About 90% of the costs of ESA's ISS share will be contributed by Germany (41%), France (28%) and Italy (20%). German ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter is currently the first long-term ISS crew member.
As of 2005, the spacecrafts that establish the supply link to the ISS are the Progress and Soyuz spacecrafts as well as the Space Shuttle. The European Space Agency has started to construct a space freighter for the ISS, the ATV, an Automated Transfer vehicle with a cargo capacity of 8 metric tons that will be serving the ISS beginning in July, 2007. With the Space Shuttle reaching its retirement age in 2010, until NASA has a replacement for it such as COTS (the CEV is not expected to make its first operational manned flight before 2012) the ATV together with Progress, Soyuz and the Japanese transporter HTV (which will be ready in 2009) will be the only links between Earth and the ISS.
Current projects already launched by ESA.
ESA current projects to be launched in the near future.
Future projects for ESA.
Past projects of ESA.
Other projects and services by ESA.
Field installations of the European Space Agency.
European space agency related pages.
A preliminary investigation by the Russian Failure Investigation State Commission has determined that a flight control system in the Rockot's Breeze upper stage caused the loss of the ESA's Cryosat satellite. The failure occurred when the Breeze didn't generate the command to shut down the second stage's engines. The Commission will present its detailed findings on November 3, 2005 to Eurorockot and the European Space Agency.
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