Since its official establishment in 1975, the European Space Agency (ESA) not only has become the most prominent force in the commercial space launch services market but also has invested substantial resources in developing and operating scientific and applications (Earth observation, communications, meteorology, and materials processing) space systems. Although ESA's ambitious plans to perform independent manned space operations have faltered during the 1990's, a long-term commitment remains. For a decade ESA has been the third most active spacefaring organization in the world behind the USSR/CIS and the US.
From an initial membership of 11 nations, by 1994 ESA included 13 full members (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), one associate member (Finland), and one cooperating state (Canada). Finland was to become a full member in January, 1995. Portugal and Greece may apply for membership in ESA during the next several years. The purpose of ESA is to "provide for and to promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications, with a view to their being used for operational space applications systems" (Reference 1). Although cooperation with other national and international space organizations has been encouraged, one of the tenets of ESA policy has been to maximize European independence in virtually all matters of space exploration and exploitation.
The ESA organizational structure includes a Council for policy decisions and approval of long-range plans and a much larger operations arm for handling the day-to-day affairs of the agency. The Council, led since July, 1993, by Chairman Pieter Gaele Winters of the Netherlands, is divided into Program Boards and Committees staffed by national delegations. Whereas the Council normally meets once each quarter, full ministerial-level meetings are held about every other year or as dictated by events. As a result of significant world political changes and economic factors, ministerial-level meetings were held in 1991(Munich) and 1992 (Granada) with the next meeting scheduled for 1995.
ESA operations are managed by the Director General, Jean-Marie Luton of France (since October, 1990), and his principal staff which includes five major technical directorates: Science, Telecommunications, Observation of the Earth and Its Environment, Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity, and Launchers. With headquarters in Paris and liaison offices in Washington, DC; Kourou, French Guiana; and Toulouse, France, ESA runs four major facilities with a combined staff of about 2,000 permanent employees.
The European Space Operations Center (ESOC) established in September, 1967, is the primary satellite control facility for ESA spacecraft. Located in Darmstadt, Germany,and headed by Director Felix Garcia-Costaner, ESOC operates detachments in French Guiana, Belgium, Germany, and Spain and receives additional assistance from national ground stations in the Canary Islands, Sweden, Italy, Kenya, Australia, and Japan. Daily control of spacecraft such as Meteosat, IUE, ECS, and MARECS is handled by ESOC as well as support for international spacelab missions on the US Space Shuttle. Upgrades at several ground stations were underway in 1994 to support major missions like Ulysses, ERS, Cluster, and ISO (References 2-3).
The European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, Netherlands, houses more than half of all ESA personnel in its role as the satellite environmental testing facility. Under the direction of Marius Le Fevre, ESTEC is organized into five principal departments: Systems Engineering and Programmatics, Mechanical Systems, Electrical Systems, Automation and Informatics, and Product Assurance and Safety. Operational since 1968, ESTEC services national and commercial spacecraft as well as ESA satellites (References 4-7).
The oldest of ESA's main centers is the European Space Research Institute (ESRIN), established in Frascati, Italy, in 1966 by ESA's predecessor, the European Space Research Organization. ESRIN, with a staff of 140 led by Francis Roscian, manages the ESA Information Retrieval Service (ESA-IRS), Earthnet, and the Information Systems Division. At ESRIN's Earth Observation Data Handling Center, remote sensing data from the European Remote Sensing Satellite (ERS) as well as US and Japanese Earth observation satellites are received, processed, archived, and disseminated (References 8-11).
The European Astronauts Center (EAC) in Cologne, Germany, is the newest and smallest of the four ESA centers. Approved at the ESA Ministerial meeting of 1987, EAC began limited operations in 1990 in anticipation of major ESA manned space flight requirements in support of the Hermes spaceplane and International Space Station programs. With the cancellation of the former and substantial delays associated with the latter, EAC's growth has been stymied, and by 1994 the permanent staff, headed by Franco Rositto, was only about 20% of the anticipated 100 personnel. However, EAC was assisting in the preparation of the ESA-Russian Euromir 94 and Euromir 95 missions to the Mir space station and Spacelab flights (References 12-13).
Although ESA developed the Ariane family of launch vehicles, the organization does not own a space launch facility. Instead, Ariane launches are conducted from the French Guiana Space Center under special arrangement with ESA. ESA also does not maintain its own aerospace industry, choosing to contract with the specialized companies of its member states to procure most spacecraft and launch vehicle components. To finance its many endeavors and infrastructure, ESA members contribute to mandatory programs based upon Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and to voluntary programs. In both cases, however, ESA attempts to redistribute its funds in proportion to the contributions of its members.
Table 1.2 delineates the ESA payment appropriations for 1993 and 1994. Taking into account inflationary factors, both years represent a real decline from the 1992 appropriation budget of 2967.4 MAU. However, some programs, e.g., "Earth Observation and its Environment," enjoyed significant budget increases, largely possible by the declining development costs of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle. The ESA budgeting process continues to be plagued by fluctuating currency exchange rates (References 14-15).
1. ESA Convention, entered into force in 1980.
2. ESOC. The European Operations Centre, ESA f-15, ESA, September 1988.
3. Annual Report '94, ESA, 1995, pp. 77-81, 95-97.
4. To Last a Lifetime. The ESTEC Test Centre, ESA F-25, ESA, June 1990.
5. Making Sure - A Brief Outline and History of ESA's Test and Checkout Services, ESA BR-22, ESA, 1984.
6. Touchstone for Success, ESA BR-52, ESA, July 1988.
7. Annual Report '94, op. cit., pp. 92-95.
8. ESRIN, ESA br-58, ESA, 1989.
9. "The Nerve Center of Europe in Space", ESA Features, No. 19, 11 April 1991.
10. All About the European Space Agency, ESA, May 1995, p. 3.
11. Annual Report '94, op. cit., pp. 98-101.
12. Annual Report '93, ESA, 1994, pp. 92-94.
13. A. Ripoll, et al, "The New European Astronauts Centre", ESA Bulletin, No. 64.
14. Annual Report, ESA, 1992, pp. 12-14; 1993, pp. 10-12; 1994, pp. 12-14.
15. P.B. de Selding, "ESA Seeks to End Differences Over Exchange Rates", Space News, 31 January - 6 February 1994, p. 11.