ESA Director to Retire Early

Johann Dietrich Woener

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich ‘Jan’ Wörner has announced he plans to leave his post running the space agency on Feb. 28, four months ahead of the original no-later-than date of June 30.

In a blog post, Wörner said a quicker transition was possible because his successor, Josef Aschbacher, already serves as ESA’s director for Earth Observation and is thus familiar with how the agency functions. In December, the ESA Council named Aschbacher to secede Wörner, who is nearing the end of his five-year term.

Wörner also cited planning work needed for the ESA ministerial in 2022. At that session, ministers from ESA’s 22 member states, two associate members and cooperating nation Canada meet to set the agency’s budget and policies.

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ESA Council Appoints Josef Aschbacher as Next ESA Director General

Josef Aschbacher (Credit: ESA–Philippe Sebirot, 2016)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Today, the ESA Council appointed Dr Josef Aschbacher as the next Director General of ESA, for a period of four years. He will succeed Prof. Jan Wörner, whose term of office ends on 30 June 2021.

Dr Aschbacher is currently ESA Director of Earth Observation Programmes and Head of ESRIN, ESA’s centre for Earth Observation near Rome.

Born in Austria, Dr Aschbacher studied at the University of Innsbruck, where he obtained Masters and PhD degrees in Natural Sciences. He has over three decades of experience working in international organisations, including ESA, the European Commission, the Austrian Space Agency and Asian Institute of Technology.

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Gateway MoU and Artemis Accords – FAQs

Lunar Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Director General Jan Wörner and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to take Europe to the Moon.

The historic agreement will see ESA Member States contribute a number of essential elements to the first human outpost in lunar orbit, known as the Gateway.

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ESA, CNES Sign Contract to Maintain and Modernize Spaceport

Vega and Ariane 5 launch pads at Europe’s Spaceport. (Credit: ESA–Stephane Corvaja)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA will contribute to the maintenance, operations and modernisation of Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana over the period 2020–24.

At the ESA Council meeting on 16 December, a contract for the ‘Maintenance of the Guiana Space Centre launch range in operational condition for the period 2020–24, including core launch range renewal activities’ was signed by Jan Wörner, ESA Director General and Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of CNES, France’s space agency.

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ESA Purchases World-first Debris Removal Mission From Start-up

ClearSpace-1 mission (Credit: ClearSpace)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA has signed an €86 million [$104 million] contract with an industrial team led by Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA to purchase a unique service: the first removal of an item of space debris from orbit.

As a result, in 2025, ClearSpace will launch the first active debris removal mission, ClearSpace-1, which will rendezvous, capture and take down for reentry the upper part of a Vespa (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) used with Europe’s Vega launcher. This object was left in a ‘gradual disposal’ orbit (approximately altitude 801 km by 664 km), complying with space debris mitigation regulations, following the second flight of Vega in 2013. 

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Luxembourg, ESA Team to Create European Space Resources Innovation Centre

LUXEMBOURG (LSA PR) — Luxembourg just entered a strategic partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) to create a “European Space Resources Innovation Centre”, called ESRIC in abbreviated form. Unique of its kind, ESRIC aims to become an internationally recognised centre of expertise for scientific, technical, business and economic aspects related to the use of space resources for human and robotic exploration, as well as for a future in-space economy.

Based in Luxembourg, ESRIC will partner with public and private international players in this field to create a hub of excellence for space resources in Europe. The creation of ESRIC was part of the Luxembourg government initiative SpaceResources.lu launched in 2016 to establish an ecosystem favorable to the development of activities related to the exploration and use of space resources.

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NASA, European Space Agency Formalize Artemis Gateway Partnership

Artemis Gateway orbiting the moon. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and ESA (European Space Agency)  have finalized an agreement to collaborate on the Artemis Gateway. This agreement is an important element in a broad effort by the United States to engage international partners in sustainable lunar exploration and to demonstrate technologies necessary for a future human mission to Mars. The agreement, signed Tuesday, marks NASA’s first formal commitment to launch international crew members to the lunar vicinity as part of NASA’s Artemis missions.

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Positive Signs for Europe as ESA Goes Forward to the Moon

Artemis Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Director General Jan Wörner and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to take Europe to the Moon.

The historic agreement will see ESA Member States contribute a number of essential elements to the first human outpost in lunar orbit, known as the Gateway.

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Latvia Becomes Associate Member of ESA

RIGA, Latvia (ESA PR) — Latvia signed an Association Agreement with ESA on 30 June 2020.

This Association Agreement between ESA and the Government of the Republic of Latvia, builds on the successful results achieved under the previous frameworks of cooperation and enters into force for a duration of seven years. Comprising 18 Articles and two Annexes, it orchestrates the strengthening of Latvia’s relations with ESA.

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Job Opening: ESA Looks for a New Leader

ESA Director General Jan Woerner opens the ESA-RAL Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory on Harwell Campus, UK. (Credit: STFC-S.Kill)

Do you love space?
Are you European?
Want to run a space agency that spends billions of dollars?

The European Space Agency (ESA) has got a job for you. The ultimate job. See the press release below.

Vacancy for the post of ESA Director General

ESA Council approved yesterday the publication of the position of Director General, to succeed Johann-Dietrich Wörner, whose mandate comes to an end in mid-2021.

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ESA, European Commission Pre-order Four More Ariane 6 Launches

Artist’s view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters (A64) (Credit: ESA – D. Ducros)

PARIS (Arianespace PR) — The European Space Agency (ESA) has finalized its preorder for four more launches on Ariane 6, along with an initial payment.

Using Ariane 62, the light version of the new European launcher, these missions will be carried out on behalf of the European Commission to continue the deployment and operational ramp-up of the high-performance Galileo satellite navigation system.

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Watch ESA Director General’s Press Briefing on Wednesday

ESA Director General Jan Woerner opens the ESA-RAL Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory on Harwell Campus, UK. (Credit: STFC-S.Kill)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Follow the ESA Director General’s start-of-the-year press briefing at 08:30 GMT (09:30 CET) on 15 January 2020. 

This briefing, with DG Jan Wörner and ESA Directors, will lay out plans for the new budget committed to by Member States at Space19+ and look ahead at 2020.

In particular this year, we are looking forward to the launches of Solar Orbiter and ExoMars 2020, key missions in Science and Exploration, as well as Sentinel-6A, and the return to flight of Vega. We will welcome back Luca Parmitano from his Beyond mission, and continue to prepare for future exploration in low Earth orbit and at the lunar Gateway. Our new Space Safety Programme will be of vital importance as we monitor and mitigate threats in space and from space.

Space19+ also reinforced our belief that climate change and environmental monitoring are of paramount importance to our Member States. Other space applications are becoming more important by the day such as satellites for 5G and the Internet of Things, as well as new navigation applications, and downstream use of space data to improve life on Earth.

Watch the press briefing on ESA Web TV.

ESA Ministers Commit to Biggest Ever Budget of $15.84 Billion

Credit: ESA

Ministers approved funding lunar Gateway, space station operations until 2030, Mars Sample Return and Hera asteroid missions

SEVILLE, Spain (ESA PR) — ESA’s Council at Ministerial Level, Space19+, has concluded in Seville, Spain, with the endorsement of the most ambitious plan to date for the future of ESA and the whole European space sector. The meeting brought together ministers with responsibility for space activities in Europe, along with Canada and observers from the EU.

The Member States were asked to approve a comprehensive set of programmes to secure Europe’s independent access to and use of space in the 2020s, boost Europe’s growing space economy, and make breakthrough discoveries about Earth, our Solar System and the Universe beyond, all the while making the responsible choice to strengthen the efforts we are making to secure and protect our planet.

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Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart Champions ESA’s Hera Mission for Planetary Defense

Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart at Noordwijk’s Walk of Space, where his handprint joined those other space luminaries, during his visit to the Netherlands in October 2019. (Credit: ESA)

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (ESA PR) — Having spent much of the 21st century developing planetary defence techniques, Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart is a strong supporter of ESA’s proposed Hera mission. In general, when it comes to asteroid deflection, he says, two spacecraft are better than one.

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NASA, ESA to Hold Ceremony to Mark Arrival of First Orion Service Module

View from below: Orion European Service Module-1 (Credit: ESA–A. Conigli)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA is inviting media to its Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 9 a.m. EST Friday, Nov. 16, for an event marking the arrival from Bremen, Germany, of the European Service Module – the powerhouse that will supply NASA’s Orion spacecraft with electricity, propulsion, thermal control, air and water.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and ESA (European Space Agency) Director General Jan Wörner, as well as other senior leaders from NASA and ESA will discuss with media the international cooperation needed to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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