Having taken over the presidency of the European Space Agency from Switzerland and Luxembourg at the ESA Ministerial Council held in Lucerne at the end of 2016, Spain organised this Intermediate Ministerial Meeting. This gathering gave participants the opportunity to pay tribute to ESA’s recent achievements, such as the launch of the BepiColombo mission for Mercury or of the Aeolus satellite (for wind measurements), and in particular to prepare the next ESA Ministerial Council scheduled for late 2019 in Madrid.
The ministers adopted a resolution authorising the Director General to pursue ESA’s activities in all space domains in interaction with industrial and scientific partners, on the basis of four programmatic pillars:
- Science and Exploration, with European participation in the future Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G);
- Applications, in telecommunications (contribution of space activities to development of 5G networks), navigation (development of technologies, e. g. for self-driving cars), or Earth observation (meteorology, environment, climate change);
- Space Safety and security, e.g. removing space debris to ensure the safe use of space;
- Operations and support for space activities, e.g. through a range of internationally competitive European launchers and the know-how to operate the full spectrum of future missions.
Institutional European Space is the construct of ESA, the European Union and their member states together. The EU’s European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), Galileo (navigation) and Copernicus (Earth observation) programmes are all good examples of successful European activities in space based on ESA’s preparatory programmes and reliance on its expertise. The ministers thus approved a resolution giving the Director General a mandate to pursue, consolidate and streamline the EU-ESA cooperation for the purposes of implementing the various components of the EU’s Space Programme for 2021-2027.
Finally, following the commitment made at the 2014 ESA Ministerial Council in Luxembourg, the ESA and several countries, including Switzerland, have signed a joint declaration expressing the importance of using the Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers developed by ESA.
State Secretary Mauro Dell’Ambrogio recalled that space technology is a field where Research and Innovation merges with advanced technology in an almost virtuosic way. Not only do the results provide answers to some fundamental questions that have long concerned us, but they also provide us with access to services that shape and facilitate our daily lives. Thanks to its membership of ESA, Switzerland makes an essential contribution to European space activities and remains internationally competitive.
Switzerland is a founding member of the ESA and contributes over CHF 175 million annually to ESA programmes and activities. This investment enables Swiss federal institutes of technology, cantonal universities, universities of applied sciences and industrial companies to take part in space missions at various levels, from advanced research to the development of prototypes, from industrialisation to development of applications. Scientific excellence and technological innovations in the space sector at national level, combined with close cooperation between research institutes and industry, are important factors for economic growth.