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The new ESA director outlines the priorities.

WASHINGTON – The European Space Agency’s new head has outlined his priorities over the coming years, from improving relations with the EU to increasing trade activity.

The ESA Agenda 2025 document, published by the agency on April 7, expresses that the new director, Josef Aschbacher, wants to use the agency to ensure that Europe continues to play its role as the global leader in space.

“In my opinion, Europe needs a serious debate about where it wants to be in the next 10 to 15 years,” he said during a call with reporters to discuss the 17-page report, which includes About the role of space in the economy and strategy and for “bringing new energy, new enthusiasm, new inspiration through new space programs”


The plan has five priorities for the agency’s four years ahead, the timeline of Aschbacher’s first term as head of the agency. This includes strengthening EU relations, increasing commercial activities, developing space safety and security programs, working through “critical program challenges” with existing programs and changing internal processes. ESA

At the top of the list are improvements to relations with the EU, which have been strained in recent years as the EU expands its space ambitions. The EU has partnered with ESA on the Galileo satellite navigation program and the Copernicus series Earth observation satellite, but the EU has shown interest in new efforts such as the broadband constellation and created the EU’s space program agency to Take care of activities

Aschbacher, who earlier this year expressed a desire to make ESA the “go-to agency” for the EU’s space activities, said the immediate priority was the time-delayed finalization of the Financial Framework Partnership Agreement (FFPA). A long time between the two organizations governing their cooperation. About space activities

“We are starting over with new energy in the negotiations,” he said, including a joint letter signed by Aschbacher and Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commander, signaling their intention to end the agreement on FFPA.

He declined to discuss specific issues that prevented both parties from reaching an agreement. “So far we are making positive progress,” he said. We look forward to the deal ready and getting approval from both parties by the middle of the year. ”

As part of the efforts to improve relations, the ESA-EU described in the agenda is a proposal for the spring 2022 “Space Summit”, which will bring together European nations for a high-level conference, possibly “the best”. Heads of state-level to discuss Europe’s plans for space. The documents say the meeting could be a platform to announce Europe’s new flagship space program to join Galileo and Copernicus, such as the broadband constellation proposed by the European Union, or alternatives such as traffic management initiatives. In new space That event will be separate from the next ESA’s next ministerial meeting scheduled in late 2022.

Another important aspect of supporting commercial space activities in Europe is in response to the growth of American space startups. “Private investment in space in the US is much larger than in Europe, and I think it is necessary. Do something, ”he said.

The agenda outlines three ways to support European commercial space activities, such as promoting talent in Europe, improving contracting mechanisms and partnerships to meet demand for startups. “We need to be more responsive, more dynamic, to be relevant to these companies,” he said, “and to make sure we are adding value and not getting in the way of the company. These “

Two other elements of the plan, which have to do with space safety and security, and the challenges of major programs are relevant to the existing ESA program for space safety and security, Aschbacher called for. Analyze the capabilities and needs of ESA member states to “identify complementary activities” that the ESA can follow for the next ministerial meeting.

One of the key program challenges is space access. “International competition is putting great pressure on the development of our launcher,” he said. Ariane 6 in 2022, but he said the ESA needs to be thinking about future vehicles as well, incorporating technologies such as recycling. This includes, he said, “encouraging more competition than we have seen in the past”.

Under those programs, Aschbacher said the fifth priority was to refit the ESA, noting that one in five of its employees were eligible to retire by 2025, while those retirements meant a loss of interest. Expertise, he explains, this is an opportunity to bring people with knowledge of other domains, as well as improve the diversity and gender balance of the agency’s workforce.

He said all the changes were aimed at allowing Europe to compete with other space powers, including the United States and China. He noted that China was “very enthusiastic” but did not discuss specific opportunities for cooperation, although ESA officials spoke with a partner at the National Space Administration.

A day prior to the launch of the ESA Agenda 2025, Aschbacher spoke with NASA Show Administrator Steve Jurczyk to confirm their cooperation in a wide range of science and human space flight efforts. I would like to have a strong relationship with NASA, ”he said.“ There are many opportunities on the horizon. ”He added that improving the relationship between the United States and the EU under Biden administration could provide new space cooperation opportunities.

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