European Space Agency


Paris, France

1 Canada Canada

May 30, 1975

The European Space Agency, French Agence européenne spatial (ASE ), English European Space Agency ( ESA ) is an international space organization based in Paris. It was founded on 30 May 1975 to the Convention for the Establishment of a European Space Agency, which was not put to the ten founding States until October 30, 1980 in force.

The foundation of the organization seeks to better coordination of European space activities with the objective of sustainable strengthening of European space activities in order due to the immense efforts of both countries to catch up to the technological gap with space powers such as Russia, then USSR, and the U.S. gradually and balance. It has 20 member states and employed 1,905 employees in 2006 (2005: 1,901 ).

ESA is the successor organization to the European ELDO, ESRO and the European Telecommunications Conference ( CETS ). Like these, they limited acc. Article II of its Statute in their European projects for space exploration and utilization to " exclusively peaceful purposes".

The majority of EU member states participating in the ESA. In addition, there also Switzerland and Norway involved. The ESA cooperating increasingly with the EU and the national space agencies in particular Germany and France.

The ESA is jointly with NASA founding member of the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems ( CCSDS ).

Director General of ESA since 2003, Jean -Jacques Dordain; his term of office was extended in June 2010 by the ESA Council in June 2015.

  • 4.1 Member States
  • 4.2 Associate Members
  • 4.3 relation to the European Union
  • 4.4 European Cooperating States ( ECS)
  • 4.5 States with cooperation agreement
  • 4.6 Agreement with Russia
  • 7.1 launchers
  • 7.2 Selection Process
  • 7.3 activities
  • 7.4 Completed Projects
  • 7.5 Ongoing Projects
  • 7.6 Projects in development
  • 7.7 Proposed Projects
  • 7.8 Discontinued Projects
  • 7.9 Unsuccessful projects


  • ESA Headquarters in Paris, France
  • European Space Research and Technology Centre ( ESTEC ) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands
  • European Space Operations Centre (ESOC ) in Darmstadt
  • European Astronaut Centre ( European Astronaut Centre) in Cologne
  • One of four ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC ) in Oberpfaffenhofen
  • European Space Research Institute ( ESRIN ) in Frascati near Rome in Italy
  • European Space Astronomy Centre ( ESAC ) in Villafranca del Castillo, Villanueva de la Cañada, near Madrid in Spain
  • Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana
  • Esrange base for altitude and microgravity research in Kiruna, Sweden

In addition, the ESA operates offices in the USA, Moscow / Russia, Harwell / UK, Toulouse / France and Belgium. Overall, working at 2010 for ESA circa 1900 employees.


The founding

After the Second World War, many European scientists left Western Europe in order to work in the United States or the Soviet Union either. Although the recovery of Western Europe in the 1950s made ​​it possible to invest in the research and particularly in the aerospace, recognized the European scientists that national projects would not make it to compete with the two superpowers. As early as 1958, a few months after the Sputnik shock, Edoardo Amaldi and Pierre Auger is met, two important members of the western European scientific community to discuss the establishment of a common western European space agency. The meeting was accompanied by scientific representatives from eight countries.

The Western European nations decided to create two separate agencies: the ELDO ( European Launcher Development Organisation ) should deal with the construction of delivery systems and ESRO ( European Space Research Organization ), which should deal with the development of scientific satellites. The ESRO was founded on March 20, 1964 by an agreement signed on June 14, 1962 agreement. Between 1968 and 1972, ESRO celebrated their first successes: Seven research satellites were brought into orbit with the help of American carrier systems. As later in the ESRO participation is required in the scientific program for all members while participating in other programs such applications satellites, launch vehicles or manned space flight only countries that are interested also in the ESA. The ESA is in accordance with the membership fees to the respective programs jobs to the aerospace companies of the countries participating in the programs.

ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre ), the successor organization to the ESRO, is still a part of the ESA, although this is a much larger organization today. ESA in its current form was founded in 1975 as a merger of the ESRO with ELDO.

The beginnings

In the early 1970s, when the competition for the advance had put into space between the United States and the Soviet Union and the budgets of the space agencies have been reduced dramatically, the ESA established itself as a pioneer in the peaceful exploration of space.

ESA launched its first major scientific mission in 1975 with the satellite COS -B. In cooperation with NASA and the British SERC IUE was launched in 1978. It was the first space telescope in Earth orbit and was to September in 1996.

A variety of successful projects in Earth orbit followed, and in 1985 began with Giotto, the first deep-space mission, which examined the Halley's comet in 1986 and the comet Grigg - Skjellerup 1992.

In the following period were partially started in cooperation with NASA, a large number of projects, which are listed below. As the successor organization of ELDO, ESA their launchers for commercial and scientific payloads as part of the Ariane program developed in this period also constantly evolving.

The recent history

At the beginning of the new millennium, the ESA has become, together with space agencies like NASA, JAXA and Roskosmos with as the 1990 launched the Hubble Space Telescope projects to a size in the space research. While, as described above, in recent decades, particularly in the 80s and 90s, the ESA had relied on cooperation with NASA, led various circumstances (eg legal restrictions on the exchange of information, incalculable project settings by sudden cash and cash deletion) to the fact that emissions are increasingly being performed in-house or, for example, in co-operation with Russia.


Since the French and the Germans could not agree after the establishment of the leadership, the Englishman Roy Gibson was appointed the first Director General.

  • Roy Gibson 1975-1980 ( UK )
  • Erik Quistgaard 1980-1984 (Sweden)
  • Reimar Lüst 1984-1990 ( Germany )
  • Jean -Marie Luton 1990-1997 (France)
  • Antonio Rodotà 1997-2003 (Italy )
  • Jean -Jacques Dordain since 2003 ( France)

Member States and cooperation partners

  • ESA Member States
  • ECS partner countries
  • Cooperation agreement

Member States

The ten founding member states of 1975 are:

  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • France
  • Great Britain
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Spain

Other Member States:

  • Ireland ( since 1975)
  • Norway ( since 1987)
  • Austria (since 1987)
  • Finland (since 1995)
  • Portugal (since 2000)
  • Greece (since March 2005)
  • Luxembourg (since December 2005)
  • Czech Republic ( since November 2008)
  • Romania ( since 2011 )
  • Poland ( since 2012 )

Associate Members

Since 1 January 1979, Canada is an associate member. For this, a cooperation agreement was concluded, which guarantees the country's participation in the decision-making processes and programs of ESA and a fair allocation of industrial contracts.

Relation to the European Union

A direct connection between the European Union and ESA is not, the ESA is not the EU space agency. The ESA is a completely independent organization that maintains, however, especially on the European Space Council close links with the EU. These relations are governed inter alia by the ESA / European Commission Framework Agreement. Nevertheless, only 18 of the 20 ESA member states are also members of the European Union. This in turn means that some EU countries (2011: 9 out of 27 ), such as Malta are not members of ESA.

Regardless, in the framework of ESA's long-term programs with joint financing joint actions performed ( ARIANE rocket, space shuttle HERMES, manned space cabin COLUMBUS, etc.). Meanwhile, the TFEU familiar with Articles 179-190 a separate policy area "Research, technological development and space ". Since 2009 with the new provision of Article 189 TFEU, the research how to prepare developmental contract to the Union, the outlines of a European space policy. These grants Article 189, paragraph 3 TFEU, the Union commissioned to take all appropriate relations with the ESA.

European Cooperating States ( ECS)

Since the jump between non-membership and full membership of some countries was too large, a new member status was introduced. The countries that have this status are referred to as European Cooperating States ( ECS). For countries with this status was created with the plan for European Co -operating States ( PECS ) is a possibility for closer cooperation. In the five-year plan, the country involved and the ESA agree on joint projects. For the negotiations to a maximum of twelve months are provided. The companies and agencies in these countries can then participate in tenders to participate in projects of the ESA. Participating countries may participate to the Basic Technology Research Programme on almost all programs. Also, the tax burden is lower than for a full membership.

Currently, the following countries participate in the program:

  • Hungary (ECS status since April 2003 PECS has been running since November 2003)
  • Estonia (ECS status since November 2009)
  • Slovenia (ECS status since January 2010)

From November 2003 to November 2008 was also the Czech Republic an ECS state, Romania was from February 2006 to January 2011 an ECS state, Poland was from April 2007 to September 2012 an ECS state. Meanwhile, these countries are full members.

States with the cooperation agreement

Prerequisite for ECS membership is the previous signing of a cooperation agreement. This is the first step in the direction of increasing cooperation between ESA and the State concerned, to full membership.

The following states have to be a cooperation agreement with ESA, without ECS States:

  • Turkey (since July 2004)
  • Ukraine (since January 2008)
  • Latvia (since July 2009)
  • Cyprus ( since August 2009)
  • Slovakia ( since April 2010)
  • Lithuania (since October 2010)
  • Israel (since January 2011)
  • Malta (since February 2012)

Agreement with Russia

Furthermore, there is a cooperation and partnership agreement between ESA and Roscosmos. Ranging had the European-Russian cooperation in 1990 with knowledge transfer, training of astronauts and the implementation of ESA experiments on Russian missions. So the first spacewalk by an ESA astronaut in the Euromir -95 mission took place, for example. In the latest edition of the framework contract between ESA and Roskosmos on 19 January 2005, the joint partnership in the development, construction and operation of launch vehicles has been agreed. This includes the construction of a launch pad for Soyuz rockets at Guiana Space Centre, Europe's spaceport in French Guiana. This is operational since 2011.

Council of Ministers

The highest body is the ESA Ministerial Council. Every few years, he holds a ministerial conference, to which all the members and partners of the ESA participate. The conference convenes each in a European city of a member country. There are future projects and decided, provided that an application has been made, added new partners and members. The last conference was held in Naples in November 2012.


The ESA is financed from the state budget of the Member States. The shares of individual countries are based on the gross domestic product of each country. A distinction is made between mandatory activities, to which all Member States are required to participate, as well as a number of optional programs in which it is left to the individual States to decide whether they wish to participate or not. In contrast to the tender nature of the EU, the award of ESA orders directed to the industry after the financial contribution of the corresponding Member State. The budget of ESA is approximately 3.591 billion euros in 2009. Of that, approximately 2.819 billion euros on contributions from the Member States in the same year. Current contribution figures for comparison from the year of 2012.


ESA operates a variety of projects. These are often carried out in cooperation with other space agencies.


The launchers ESA Ariane hot, they start near the equator in Kourou (French Guiana ). The rocket launch near the equator provides fundamental advantages over the equatorial far -off areas on the northern or southern hemisphere. Due to the Earth's rotation has the rocket there already on the earth's surface mediated maximum ground speed and requires less fuel to get to the required orbital velocity. The current generation is the Ariane 5 In addition, the development of the Ariane 6 is already being prepared. This could go in the 2020s in service.

In addition, the Vega launcher was developed for smaller payloads, which performed its maiden flight in February 2012.

Since 2011 can restart of type 2 of the new Soyuz launch pad in Kourou ELS rockets. This makes it the first launch site of Soyuz rocket outside the CIS. Galileo navigation satellites were launched there; on April 3, 2014 Sentinel -1A.

Selection process

A scientific project of the ESA ( Space Science ) goes through the following phases before it is realized:

  • Ideation (Call for Ideas ): During this phase, the scientific community is asked to mission proposals. These proposals are reviewed by peer review committees, and it will be given recommendations on which proposals are to reach the next stage.
  • Assessment phase (assessment phase): Now a maximum of four missions from the Science Programme Committee to be selected. The respective mission team designs together with ESA engineers the payload. Here, the scientific value and technical feasibility of the mission is to be shown. One of the four missions is then selected from the Space Science Advisory Committee for the next phase.
  • Definition Phase: Here the cost and schedule for the mission should be planned. In the end, the contractor who will be entrusted with the construction of the instruments selected.
  • Development phase: In this phase, the program is developed along with the selected industrial partners and realized.


The projects can be divided into several areas of activity:

  • Human Spaceflight and Exploration
  • Navigation
  • Observing the Earth
  • Research and Technology
  • Space Science ( As a mandatory program, it is - the only -. Mandatory for all members)
  • Telecommunications

Completed projects

The following satellites and probes have successfully completed their missions. You are now in a graveyard orbit, crashed or burns up in the atmosphere.

Current Projects

These projects are in the active phase, be received and processed in the data.

Projects in development

These projects the assessment phase have survived, and it was decided that these projects are to be realized.

Proposed projects

In these projects, it is still unclear whether they should really be started in this form.

Discontinued projects

Failed projects

Applications satellites

The ESA developed applications satellites. Its operation is given usually after a test phase to the respective satellite program founded for the independent company once it is capable of doing. Examples are in Eutelsat the ECS satellite Meteosat and at the weather satellites. Today's Eutelsat satellites, however (unlike the weather satellites ) is no longer developed in cooperation with ESA.

Public relations

Since November 2010, the ESA published in cooperation with DLR, the podcast series spacetime. The podcast by Tim Pritlove, the DLR and ESA staff on the different topics and tasks will be moderated interviewed this. In addition, since May 2011, is the so-called ESA KIDS platform online. There, children and young people can get information about the European Space Agency.