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European Space Agency Seeks €12.5 Billion for Next Three Years

Oct. 31. 2019 (EIRNS)—The European Space Agency will ask its 22 member states to commit to funding a budget of €12.5 billion ($13.9 billion) spread over the next three years. This will be on the agenda of the next ESA Ministerial Council to be held Nov. 27-28 in Seville, Spain, ESA Director General Jan Woerner told an Oct. 17 news conference, SpaceNews reported.

The November conference will see member states discuss ESA’s future work and funding. If finalized and accepted, the commitment would be an increase over the $12 billion secured at the previous triennial ministerial meeting in 2016, Andrew Jones wrote for SpaceNews in his Oct. 17 coverage. The spending proposal is spread across four categories, and a mixture of mandatory and optional programs. Preliminarily, ESA is proposing that science and exploration, applications, and enabling and support receive about a third of the ESA budget, and space safety and security receive 7%.

The science and exploration allocations could include new Moon and Mars projects, as well as covering existing commitments, such as the International Space Station. ESA will engage in both its own, autonomous initiatives, and cooperative international projects, including NASA’s Gateway and potentially a Mars sample-return mission.

Woerner said that despite the uncertainties regarding funding for NASA’s Artemis program and its timeline, what matters for ESA is official commitments. Woerner reported from his recent communications with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and U.S. National Space Council Executive Secretary Scott Pace, that “the Americans are counting on ESA to deliver not only the third, but more European Service Modules.” The European Service Modules provide propulsion and consumables for the NASA Orion spacecraft for human deep space missions.

NASA is also counting on ESA involvement in the Gateway via the ESPRIT module and the International Habitat (iHab) module elements of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G). This participation could lead to a NASA offer “in the future also there may a European astronaut on the surface of the Moon.”

On space transportation, ESA is looking to get the Ariane 6 and Vega C rockets completed and on the market. Asked if the Ariane 6 would be subsidized in the same way as its predecessor Ariane 5, Woerner’s response indicated that it was intended for Ariane 6 to be 50% cheaper than Ariane 5. He suggested that discussion is needed about public support for Vega C and Ariane 6, so they become cost-competitive, since “it’s clear the other launchers worldwide get some support in this or that way from the public side, whether it will be by nice contracts or whatever assistance.”

According to SpaceNews, “ESA is also looking into reusability [of its rockets] with parachute systems and the Space Rider reusable end-to-end integrated space transportation system. The agency is also looking at micro launchers, albeit with less intensity.”

Woerner was also Asked about the political uncertainties among member states, to which he replied that the Spanish government appears committed to increased spending despite an election next month. Spain is the fifth largest member state in terms of contribution to the ESA budget, according to Jones, but his coverage did not mention that Madrid’s Science Minister is an astronaut.

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