PARIS, 27 November 2014 (ESA PR) — The next Council at Ministerial Level (C/M 14) for the European Space Agency (ESA) takes place in Luxembourg on 2 December. The main topics for decision are reflected in three Resolutions:
- the Resolution on Europe’s access to space, which recognises the strategic and socio-economic value for Europe to maintain an independent, reliable and affordable access to space for institutional and commercial European customers and underlines the new governance principles related to the exploitation of Europe’s next launcher, Ariane 6, and of the evolution of Vega, Vega-C;
- the Resolution on Europe’s space exploration strategy, addressing ESA’s three destinations (low-Earth orbit (LEO), Moon and Mars) and, for the LEO destination, in particular the International Space Station (ISS) Programme; and, finally,
- the Resolution on ESA evolution.
Europe’s Access to Space
Space activities require independent access to space, so the decision to be taken on Europe’s next-generation launcher is of fundamental importance. Ariane 5, with its roots planted in the Ministerial meeting in 1985, is a remarkable European success story: it has now had more than 60 successful launches in a row, it has secured over 50% of the commercial market for launch services and has generated direct economic benefits in Europe exceeding 50 billion euros.
However, the world launch service market is changing rapidly, in both supply and demand.
On the supply side, new non-European launch service providers are now present in the commercial market at highly competitive prices, providing a challenge to the cost model of Ariane 5.
On the demand side, satellites are also changing. The commercial market, consisting mostly of telecommunication satellites, favours the introduction of electric propulsion, which could reverse the decades-long trend of higher and higher tonnages and will require new orbit injection strategies.
At the same time, there is an increasing number of European institutional payloads with the advent in particular of the Galileo and Copernicus constellations, providing a fairly stable market for recurrent launches of medium-sized satellites.
In response to these rapid changes, the ESA Executive and European launcher industry have defined a modular Ariane 6 in two configurations to serve the medium and heavy launch segments as from 2020, and a Vega upgraded launch system (Vega C) to serve the small launch segment. Ariane 6 will profit from the best re-use of Ariane 5 Midterm Evolution results and investments and from the common use of a solid rocket motor (P120C) as both first stage of Vega C and strap-on booster for Ariane 6.
In Luxembourg, Ministers will therefore be asked to take decisions on the development of Ariane 6 and Vega C which, through modularity and flexibility, will be able to satisfy the European institutional market requirements and to compete on the world-wide market.
These development decisions are associated with a new governance of the European launcher sector allocating increased responsibilities to industry and with a decision point by Participating States in 2016 on the continuation of Ariane 6 on the basis of a set of technical and financial criteria, including respective commitments for the exploitation phase.
The budget required from Member States for completion of Ariane 6 and Vega C development programme is 3.8 billion Euro.
ISS Exploitation and Space Exploration
In addition to the invaluable research activities which are conducted on board the ISS, the Station yields a wealth of experience for ESA and its international partners that will be crucial as we plan the next stages of human exploration.
The decisions to be taken in December by Ministers relate to supporting ESA’s ISS exploitation activities for the next three years (to the end of 2017), at a cost of €820 million, as well as supporting its research activities (ELIPS Programme) with additional funding.
As a contribution to the ISS common operation costs, ESA is developing NASA’s new Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Service Module, drawing upon the expertise gained with the ATV. Funding to complete the MPCV-ESM development is included in the €820 million to be funded at C/M14.
Regarding the “Moon destination”, ESA is proposing preparatory elements of a contribution to Russia’s Luna-Resource Lander (planned for launch in 2019) and Lunar Polar Sample Return (planned for launch in the early 2020s) missions; a full decision on this programme would be sought at the Ministerial in 2016.
Regarding the “Mars destination”, ESA’s ambitious ExoMars programme, involving two missions to Mars in 2016 and 2018, is also on the table for further subscription in order to ensure the implementation of the ExoMars programme. In addition, the Mars Robotic Exploration Preparation Programme (MREP-2) is proposed for further subscriptions, allowing for the adequate preparation of future exploration activities, leading to a broad Mars Sample Return mission in which Europe should be involved as a full partner.
The third topic on the agenda for Ministers, the Evolution of ESA, focuses on the vision to enable ESA to maintain its role as one of the world-leading space institutions, addressing its key relationships with its partners and its efficiency.
The main partners of ESA are: its Member States, the scientific communities, industry, the European Union, European non-Member States and the non-European States. These relationships are intricately interrelated and driven by the common objectives of achieving a competitive European space sector and ensuring maximum return on public investment in space.
The previous Ministerial Council in 2012 decided to establish a High-Level Forum involving industry, the Member States and the ESA Executive. This has met twice and made a number of recommend-ations to the ESA Director General. The most important of these is to request that industry be given a greater degree of responsibility in ESA R&D programmes, with a commensurate change in risks and rewards sharing. The Forum also proposed that ESA increase its presence in the development of space services and be prepared to be an economic actor in the upstream space sector.
Since 2012, measures have been taken to strengthen ESA’s relationships with its Member States, seeking better coordination and cooperation of space programmes in Europe through the sharing of information on national space-related programmes. Ministers are invited to go further in this area to achieve mutual further benefits.
ESA’s relationship with the EU both in programmes and in setting the context in which the European space sector operates is vitally important for Europe. C/M 12 mandated the Director General to elaborate and assess scenarios together with the European Commission for responding to a series of objectives on how this relationship might develop.
After intense discussions among delegations of Member States, Ministers are invited to confirm the preference of Member States for a relationship between ESA and the European Union which keeps ESA as an independent, world-class intergovernmental space organisation and makes ESA the long-term partner of choice of the EU for jointly defining and implementing the European Space Policy together with their respective Member States.
Publication of Resolutions
Following the conclusion of the Ministerial Meeting, the adopted Resolutions will be made public on ESA’s web site.