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Ten Billion Euros for European Space Agency

by on Dec.04, 2008, under Plans and Policies

Ministers agree to finance most of the European Space Agency wish list.

Ministers responsible for space exploration from the 18 European Space Agency (ESA) countries plus Canada met last week. They agreed to fund 9.9 billion euros (US$12.7 billion) of the requested 10.4 billion euro ($13.34 billion) budget. The ESA Council meets once every three years to decide funding on a list of proposed projects. The meeting took place in The Hague on 25-26 Nov.

Afterwards French education minister Valerie Pecresse said, “Investing money in long-term space projects is an appropriate answer to the economic crisis.” ESA director general Jean-Jacques Dordain said, “These are investments that can help the economy. This is the right time invest in the future.”

Two projects in particular were competing for funds. The ExoMars mission and ESA’s continued commitment to the International Space Station (ISS). ExoMars is championed by Italy and aims to land a rover on Mars and drill beneath the surface to a depth of two meters. Unfortunately ExoMars’s costs had doubled from those originally projected. Germany, a great supporter of the ISS with a heavy industrial commitment to the station, fought hard to protect the 1.4 billion euro ($1.8 billion) ISS budget.

Compromise Reached

After two days of haggling a compromise was reached. ESA contributions to ExoMars are capped at 1 billion euros ($1.28 billion), leaving another 200 million euros ($257 million) to be funded through co-operation with other national agencies. The mission will now blast off in 2016, three years behind schedule. Germany received pledges that the ESA can seek another 400 million euros ($513 million) for the ISS if necessary.

Germany’s junior minister for economics and technology Peter Hintze said, “The ISS is our biggest technological project and tremendous efforts have been made. Now is the time to reap the benefits of our work.” Supporters of the ISS want to get the most out of the station before 2010 when NASA stops flying shuttle missions. An ESA delegate told Reuters, “The real question is the future of the ISS after 2015 when the United States has said it will stop using it.”

New Climate Satellite – Tropomi

The Netherlands is to build a new climate satellite to be launched in 2014. The Tropospheric Ozone- Monitoring Instrument (Tropomi) will measure ozone in the troposphere. This is the lowest part of the Earth’s atmosphere containing 80 percent of our air. The Dutch government will provide 78 million euros ($100 million) for the project. The balance of 37–52 million euros ($47.5–66.7 million) will be provided by the ESA. “The data provided by the Tropomi will enable the Dutch Royal Meteorological Institute to provide accurate data about smog,” Dutch Economics Minister Maria van der Hoeven said.

Tropomi is part of ESA’s Earth monitoring project which has a total funding of 857 million euros ($1.1 billion). ESA’s new budget also includes money for ESA’s contribution to the Hubble Space Telescope, further development a new version of the Ariane launcher and funding of telecommunications projects.

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European Space Agency’s Cosmic Vision

by on Oct.24, 2007, under Plans and Policies

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Cosmic Vision candidate missions announced in Paris. Two out of the eight possible missions will eventually fly likely in conjunction with JAXA and NASA.

At a meeting held last week in Paris, ESA’s Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC) selected the candidates for possible future scientific missions. Tilman Spohn, chairperson of the SSAC said, “The maturity of most of the proposals received demonstrates the excellence of the scientific community in Europe.”

In most cases, if approved, ESA will implement the mission in collaboration with JAXA, the Japanese aerospace exploration agency, NASA or both.

The ESA’s ‘Cosmic Vision’ program addresses the following questions:

  • What are the conditions for life and planetary formation?
  • How does the Solar System work?
  • What are the fundamental laws of the Universe?
  • How did the Universe begin and what is it made of?

From a list of 50 missions suggested by European scientists, eight have been short-listed.

Laplace

Three platforms orbiting the Jovian system to perform coordinated observations of Europa, the Jovian satellites, Jupiter’s magnetosphere and its atmosphere and interior.

Tandem

A mission to Saturn, Titan and Enceladus consisting of two spacecraft, an orbiter and a carrier, to deliver a balloon and three probes onto Titan.

Cross-Scale

Twelve spacecraft to make simultaneous measurements of the gas of charged particles surrounding Earth.

Marco Polo

An asteroid sample-return mission to a near-earth object to study the origins and evolution of the Solar System. It would consist of a mother satellite, which would carry a lander, sampling devices, re-entry capsule as well as instruments.

A Dark Energy Mission

Two proposals, Dune, the dark universe investigator and SPACE, the new near-infrared all-sky cosmic explorer, addressing the study of dark matter and dark energy.

Plato

A next-generation planet finder to detect and characterise planets around alien stars.

Spica

A medium- and far-infrared observatory with a large-aperture cryogenic telescope. The mission would address planetary formation, the way the solar system works and the origin of the universe.

X-ray Evolving Universe Spectroscopy (XEUS)

A next-generation X-ray space observatory to study the fundamental laws of the Universe and the origins of the universe.

The candidate missions are now competing in an assessment cycle that ends in 2011. At the end of this process, two missions will be proposed for implementation to ESA’s Science Programme Committee, with launches planned for 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Spohn commented, “The next decade will indeed be very exciting for the scientific exploration of space.”

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