New ESAC facilities in Spain reinforce its role as a centre of excellence for space science

Family picture
24 July 2012

ESAC, the European Space Astronomy Centre, in Madrid, is the site for the science operations of all ESA astronomy and planetary missions. The number of missions and tasks developed at ESAC has grown steadily in recent years. The opening this morning of the new ESAC multipurpose facilities reinforces ESAC role as an ESA Establishment and as a centre of excellence for space science.

Álvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration and Head of ESAC, chaired the official event this morning, which was also attended by ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain; INTA Director General, Jaime Denis; the General Secretary for Science, Technology and Innovation, and CDTI President, Román Arjona; and the General Secretary for Industry and SMEs, Luis Valero.

Authorities arriving to the new ESAC facilities

The facilities opened today are an ESA-INTA (the Spanish Institute for Aerospace Technology) collaboration, with a valuable contribution from the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism through Spain’s contribution to ESA as an ESA Member State. The total cost has been 4.75 million Euros, out of which ESA contributed 1.65 million, INTA 1.60 million and, lastly, the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism with 1.5 million. This investment reinforces the role of ESAC as one of the five ESA establishments in Europe.

More than 350 people from all ESA Member States –mostly scientists and engineers- work at ESAC, ESA’s scientific centre, a large increase as compared to a staff of around one hundred in 2004 –revealing the growing role of ESAC within ESA-. ESAC facilities and equipment have been improved and refurbished to meet this growth in activities and personnel.

Ribbon cutting ceremony

The new ESAC multipurpose facility, with a living surface of 2.500 m2, will consist of a building fully dedicated to INTA-CSIC that will provide modern office space to the Department of Astrophysics of the Centro de Astrobiología; a building fully dedicated to ESA, that will provide modern office space for ESAC management, ESA’s Science Directorate and ESA corporate services in Spain; and a fully-equipped and flexible conference facility with capacity for up to 250 people, for world-class scientific conferences, workshops and events of ESA and INTA/CSIC.

The new facilities opened today reinforce the role of ESAC as a centre of excellence for space science.

Seven space telescopes and five interplanetary missions

ESAC is the ‘scientific home’ for ESA’s space telescopes XMM-Newton (detecting x-rays coming from astronomical objects), Integral (detecting gamma rays), Gaia (measuring positions of stars), Herschel (observing in far infrared), Planck (studying the origin of the Universe), the future LISA Pathfinder (a technology mission for detecting gravity waves) and Euclid (mapping the geometry of the dark Universe). As for Solar System missions, the science operations for Mars Express (to Mars); Rosetta (to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko); and Venus Express (to Venus) are also performed at ESAC. The science teams of the future BepiColombo (to Mercury); Solar Orbiter (to the Sun); and JUICE (to Jupiter’s icy moons) will be based at ESAC as well.

New ESAC facilities

The vast amounts of scientific data obtained during a space science mission are archived and made freely accessible online to the worldwide scientific community, since they are frequently a mine of unexpected discoveries. ESAC hosts the scientific archives of most of ESA’s scientific missions and, since this year, it also hosts the European science archive for the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

ESAC hosts the Department of Astrophysics of the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB), a joint institute between CSIC and INTA. The new facilities help reinforce the agreement signed in 1991 to create the LAEFF (Spanish Laboratory for Space Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics), an innovative research facility aimed mainly at encouraging young Spanish scientists to enter the fields of Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics.

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