European space policy and budgets

Ministers of the European Space Agency’s member nations are meeting this week to grapple with a number of issues associated with the agency, including funding levels and plans for future programs. An ESA press release last week outlines those issues, ranging from Earth observation programs to proposals to develop a new upper stage for the Ariane 5 and and a version of the ATV cargo spacecraft that would be capable of returning cargo to Earth—a potential precursor to a European crew vehicle. The question will be how much money ESA members, including major players like France, Germany, Italy, and the UK, will be willing to provide, and for what specific efforts.

Meanwhile, last week the European Parliament approved a European Space Policy. The top priorities of the policy are the development of the Galileo navigation system and the Copernicus Earth observing program, but the document also includes provisions ranging from “a study on the impact of space tourism and its necessary relevant safety, security and regulatory framework” to “a large-scale effort of reflection on space exploration, defining a vision of what should be Europe’s position in, and resources for, future worldwide exploration endeavours”.

7 comments to European space policy and budgets

  • An interesting … coincidence? Just today, on the first day of the meeting, the ‘Roadmap’ for Europe’s astronomy was made public – which also sets priorities for ESA’s future astronomy missions. Which, according to many pre-meeting reports in Nature or AW&ST might be facing delays in The Hague …

  • That’s the link to the Roadmap – so you are not to put the URL in parentheses?

  • Although it says you should, in the “HTML-Tags:” below – please correct that.

  • red

    Wouldn’t it be better for Europe to skip the ATV cargo return capability (which SpaceX and Orbital are already working on), and do something that commercial space isn’t doing? From a prestige point of view, having a continent try to match a little company is underwhelming. From a usefulness point of view … well, if it’s government competing with existing commercial space efforts (including Orbital’s MPLM-derived – i.e. European – cargo modules), it could actually be destructive.

    Instead of efforts to match SpaceX and Orbital, why doesn’t ESA try something useful, impressive, and currently non-commercial? Maybe an orbiting propellant depot, space tug, solar sail demo, space beamed power demo, robotic demo of satellite maintenance beyond what’s been done so far, or something like that would be better.

  • Vladislaw

    Personally, I hope they do the down cargo capability and even add the manned option they have discussed.

    The more companies competing the better.

  • red

    Vladislaw: “The more companies competing the better.”

    I’d agree with that if what ESA is doing is encouraging a European commercial company to develop this service. My (unverified) assumption was that it would be an ESA government effort similar to the Shuttle or Ares in the U.S. It seems to me that space agencies should be concentrating on new areas without current commercial viability, while encouraging and using commercial services for traditional areas like LEO transportation.

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