On 14 April, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Juice spacecraft successfully embarked from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana on its long journey to Jupiter. State Secretary Martina Hirayama attended the launch, where she emphasised the importance of European cooperation in the space sector, to which Swiss players in academia and business frequently make important contributions. On the fringes of the launch, State Secretary Hirayama held informal talks with representatives from ESA and other attending delegations.
ESA-s Juice (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) space mission will search for answers to fundamental questions about the origin of Jupiter and its moons, and will thoroughly explore the surrounding area. Juice was developed under ESA-s Science Programme. The aim of this programme is to position players from ESA-s member states at the global forefront of space science.
The University of Bern has made important contributions to three of the ten scientific instruments on board Juice; they were funded through ESA-s PRODEX programme (PROgramme de Développement d’EXpériences scientifiques). In addition, the Paul Scherrer Institute contributed to a radiation monitor that will be used on the mission. Funding for this was secured through ESA-s Science Programme. In addition to the scientific instruments, Swiss businesses have made numerous other contributions to the satellite and launcher.
During her visit to the European spaceport in Kourou, State Secretary Hirayama underlined Switzerland’s contributions to the Juice spacecraft, to Europe’s independent access to space, and to the European launcher programmes Ariane and Vega. The launch was also an opportunity for State Secretary Hirayama to exchange views on Europe’s future space ambitions with the various delegations from ESA member states and ESA representatives.
ESA is an independent intergovernmental organisation. Switzerland is one of its founding members. Germany currently presides over the ESA Council at ministerial level. At the ESA Council meeting at ministerial level in November 2022, the member states confirmed ESA-s aims to strengthen Europe’s independence in space, increase its use of outer space, and to support the key role of ESA and its programmes.
Switzerland contributes almost CHF 200 million annually to the ESA budget. These investments make it possible for Swiss universities and businesses to participate in space missions at various levels. ESA-s PRODEX programme offers teams from the research and industry sector of contributing states the opportunity to participate in science projects and missions. Scientific excellence and technical innovation in the national space sector, as well as close cooperation between research institutes and businesses, are essential for economic growth. Thanks to its membership in ESA and its participation in corresponding EU programmes, Switzerland makes a significant contribution to European space activities and is recognised internationally for its expertise in this area.
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