Italy Boosts Contribution to ESA Budget

SEVILLE, Spain (ASI PR) — In Seville, Spain, the institutional representatives and heads of the countries that make up the European Space Agency (ESA) have set the course towards new spatial horizons in the coming years. The share of the Italian contribution rises, while Samantha Cristoforetti will return to orbit.

An increase of almost one billion euros [$1.1 billion] compared to the previous Ministerial is what the Italian delegation to the ESA Ministerial Council 2019 has destined as a contribution of our country to the budget of the ESA for the next three to four years. 

The Italian representation has proposed a global subscription of 2.282 billion euros [$2.5 billion], which represents a 16% share of the global contribution of the 22 ESA Member States for our country. 

Thanks to the role played by Italy in the space exploration section,  Italy  was given a return to orbit for a new mission by the ESA astronaut of Italian nationality, the captain of the Italian Air Force, Samantha Cristoforetti.

The key words of this choice are: important returns for the national industry and guarantee of greater employment levels for the whole space chain. Italy, thanks to the intense work of the whole delegation led by Undersecretary Riccardo Fraccaro and composed of the president of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), ing. Giorgio Saccoccia, and Admiral Carlo Massagli, secretary of the Interministerial Committee for Space and Aerospace (COMINT), strengthened its positioning, gaining the role of leadership and co-leadership of numerous European programs.

The mission of the Italian delegation to increase the Italian role in ESA to such a large extent is linked to the great opportunities and benefits derived from space activities. The development of important space programs requires substantial investments and collaboration between countries for the growth of our continent is an essential goal. 

Participation in ESA’s important programs is part of the broader strategic framework of the Italian government which provides for complementary and synergetic action both in Europe (ESA and European Union) and in that of national and international bilateral cooperation.

Artist’s view of Vega-C. (Credit: ESA–Jacky Huart, 2017)

The Spanish event has seen a strong convergence of many European countries on fundamental programs for Italy . First of all, the  launcher  segment that sees support for the choices to continue with the new developments of the other versions of Vega (Vega Evolution). 

This is accompanied by the great success registered by the Italian proposal of the Space Rider program, the reusable mini shuttle. The vehicle has attracted the attention of a wide range of countries. This is an innovative program  that will further enable Europe to position itself at the forefront of the delicate and competitive space access sector. 

Space Rider mission (Credit: ESA)

Also the observation of the Earth, another sector of Italian excellence, has obtained important resources on fundamental segments for our industry as well as the next missions of robotic and human space exploration.

The choice of increase is the recognition of the strength and capacity of our country to be among the few nations to provide turnkey systems in all areas of space activity. An ability expressed in a productive fabric of large and small companies , a network of universities and the world of research capable of showing high cutting-edge industrial and design skills.

The space sector represents an economic and infrastructural investment for growth, able to improve everyday life on Earth with its countless benefits for society as a whole. The exploration of space brings with it, beyond the study of the universe that surrounds us, the important achievements of technologies at the frontier of productive knowledge and environmental benefits with the observation of our planet from above and with economic returns.

“This ministerial sanctioned Italy’s leadership in the central sectors of space. From the observation of the Earth to the robotic and human exploration, passing through the launch systems, the primacy of the country at an industrial, scientific and technological level is strengthened predominantly,” said Council Undersecretary Riccardo Fraccaro.  He added:

Italy it is the second largest country contributor to Copernicus 4.0 and this will allow our companies to increase competitiveness in the tenders that will be called for the development of the program’s Sentinels. Also in the future EO [Earth observation] we have a leading role that will guarantee to generate services and applications for the benefit of the country. 

“Even in the exploration sector, Italy is the second largest contributor, consolidating its leadership in the robotic exploration of Mars with the new Mars Sample Return program and also in the human exploration of the Moon with the I-HAB of the [lunar] Gateway. 

“As for space transport, Italy has made an important contribution by establishing itself as a leading country along with France and Germany. We also collected the subscriptions of European countries around the Vega program and France itself bet on the evolution of the launcher. Space Rider, and leader of as many as 9 member states that support the program of the first reusable European carrier. 

“Italy has a leading role in the Space Safety field, thanks to the development guide of the Fly-Eye telescope for NEO (Near Earth Object) monitoring. Investing resources in GSTP, the enabling program for basic advanced technologies, Italy supports the SMEs [small and medium sized enterprises] in developing innovations for national positioning in the new dimensions of the space economy.

“Today we record an extremely positive result for our country. The choice of Italy to make such an important increase in investments is linked,” underlines Italian Space Agency President Giorgio Saccoccia, “to Italy’s decision to support space activities that move real economic and industrial advantages towards Italy. 

“This is a proposal that shifts the European balance of the space sector towards greater leadership in Italy, compared to other important historical players, such as France and Germany. Demonstration of this has been the exciting adherence of small and medium-sized countries in the European space sector to Italian-led programs, such as the evolution of the Vega launcher and the Space Rider reusable space transport system.”

“An investment that will be on large programs but also on issues that will allow SMEs to contribute to the future of this essential sector. We are also proud to have obtained a new flight opportunity for our Samantha Cristoforetti.”

The ESA Ministerial Councils are three-year appointments in which activities and financial allocations are decided for the programs of the next years of the European Agency. Our country is the third ESA contributor. 

The Seville appointment has shown itself since the beginning as a fundamental moment of passage for a new development and positioning also of Europe on renewed roads in view of the great international competition that in this sector has become highly competitive. 

ESA representatives have expressed a strong desire to confirm and strengthen the role of our continent in the space field. This is the essential basis that increasingly recognizes the sector as a fundamental element of economic and productive growth of the economy in general, the so-called space economy.

Four main lines on which we will focus
with the largest investments in ESA

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

Robotic and human space exploration. Focal points will be the next missions to the Moon, Artemis and Gateway, and to Mars with ExoMars and Mars Sample Return. ESA has joined Artemis, the US lunar exploration program, and the agency is mainly involved in the second part of the mission with a return to the lunar surface. In this program we have a double involvement, one through ESA and the other with our historic collaboration with the Americans. 

Collaboration recently strengthens with an agreement recently signed by ASI and NASA dedicated to the recognized ability of Italian companies to build pressurized housing modules for space. Artemis will make it possible to develop new and challenging technologies for the construction of astronauts’ stay structures in cis-lunar orbit and on the surface of our satellite. 

ExoMars orbiter and rover (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

For the Mars target, we are on the eve of the launch of the Italian-led ESA ExoMars program, scheduled to start next summer. The next stage Mars Sample Return, the ambitious NASA and ESA mission, is a program that aims to collect and bring back samples of Martian soil to Earth. 

The subscription for the extension of the operations of the International Space Station up to 2024 was also approved.

Space transport. Strong interest and Italian investment in this sector which sees us as leader with our Vega launcher and its evolution of Vega C and Vega E. The investment objective is also linked to the development of even more versatile and small launchers dimensions and future space transport systems such as the Space Rider. 

For this last program, Italy has collected the subscriptions of many European countries such as Romania, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain and Norway. Thus the position of Italy in the sector is consolidated.

Security from space. Leading role in this sector thanks to the Fly Eye program and substantial participation in the HERA mission. This will consolidate an undisputed role with a central and incisive positioning for the development of new key technologies to reach and create the bases of an imminent system of control and monitoring of natural space threats such as asteroids and artificial ones such as space debris.

Earth observation. Italy continues to maintain the key role in this delicate and fundamental segment to monitor and protect our fragile planet. Our country will be even more involved in the EU and ESA Copernicus program (with leadership both for the platforms and for the payloads) and in the future programs that will lead to the passage of these observation systems towards those of newer generation of smaller size but of more technology. The field of earth observation also has the great potential to create the development of multiple services resulting from the use of data from satellite images.

Telecommunications and navigation. Above all, the telecommunications sector will be at the center of a great Italian commitment in this delicate sector with strong development and great economic returns. The investment that will be particularly targeted will be the one related to quantum communications in which the Italian Space Agency and university are already in leading positions in their experimentation. The intervention and the attention paid to the 5G communication system will also be important.

Basic technologies and new technological products. The contribution of our country in this segment will be duplicated compared to the previous ESA Ministerial in Lucerne of 2016. This is a sector capable of generating a large number of competitive innovations. 

Crucial to the ASI will be the push on the GSTP (General Support Technological Program), cutting-edge technological products and in-flight demonstrators to be implemented especially with international collaborations. New positions and development will open to SMEs in the new dimensions of the space economy.