Switzerland participates in new ESA programmes and supports its ambitions for Europe in space

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The State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation, Martina Hirayama, participated in the European Space Agency ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level held on 22 and 23 November 2022 in Paris. At this gathering of the 22 ESA member states- ministers responsible for space affairs, the Council reached decisions about ESA-s new programmes and about mandatory funding for the years 2023 to 2025. Switzerland has committed to participate to all ESA programmes with a contribution of over 600 million CHF for this period.

The motto of the meeting was -Accelerating the use of space in Europe-, as presented by ESA-s Director General Josef Aschbacher. It underlines the initiatives introduced to achieve the Agency’s ambitions, which are to increase Europe’s autonomy in space, to strengthen ESA-s leadership role in particular in science and technology in all domains, and to act responsibly and develop solutions to mitigate climate change. In her speech, State Secretary Martina Hirayama recalled Switzerland’s longstanding and reliable contributions to space programmes in Europe and the country’s willingness to support ESA’s ambitions by promoting innovation in areas such as launchers, secure and commercial communication, space security and navigation. At the end of the negotiations, the ESA member states jointly agreed to invest almost 17 billion EUR over the next few years.

This Council Meeting at Ministerial Level successfully marked the end of the Franco-Portuguese co-presidency of ESA. In response to a proposal by Switzerland, and unanimously supported by the ESA Council, Germany assumed the presidency of the Council at Ministerial Level for the years 2023 to 2025.

Success for ESA and Switzerland

The body of resolutions adopted by the Ministers support ESA-s goal to have a European space sector for the benefit of all its member states, borne by a strengthened and autonomous organisation. Earth observation, space science, navigation, space transportation and telecommunications programmes are the pillars of ESA’s expertise. They contribute to the sectoral policies of the member states and provide access to crucial data and services. Switzerland benefits from the contributions made to the programmes at ministerial meetings in the form of contracts for scientific projects and industry. It is important to pursue and seize the opportunities for Swiss leadership in the various programmes.

At this meeting, Switzerland expressed its support for programmes ranging from Earth observation to new technologies, telecommunication, exploration and launchers. The member states are thus now able to move forward with the establishment of the joint European Space Deep-Tech Innovation Centre (ESDI) in Switzerland and the development, under Swiss leadership, of the HummingSat platform for small geostationary telecommunications satellites based on 3D printing technologies. Furthermore, Switzerland can continue to develop its expertise thanks to its involvement in the field of space transportation, in particular Ariane 6, and of space security, in the ADRIOS and Clearspace-1 projects. ESA will be able to pursue its activities in all aspects of space sustainability, in particular related to space debris.

International partnerships

The decisions taken at the Council Meeting at Ministerial Level will strengthen collaboration between Swiss research and industry and with international partners in ESA programmes. For instance, the member states jointly decided to pursue the adapted ExoMars mission and lunar robotics activities, in particular for the European Large Logistics Lander (EL3), while pursuing the ESA projects carried out in partnership with NASA on the International Space Station ISS, the Lunar Gateway and Artemis, to which Switzerland is contributing. At the meeting, Switzerland also agreed with France and the United Kingdom on specific thematic and technological cooperation for THEMIS (for reusable space transportation system) and TRUTHS (for the calibration of Earth Observation data).

Value creation

The ESA member states have collectively given a strong signal of their shared wish for Europe to have an ambitious future in space. The sound investment decided on at the Council Meeting at Ministerial Level will also promote the commercial use of space: the private sector helps to create increased added-value by using space infrastructure, which in turn enables member states to respond to the needs of European citizens.

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