14th European Interparliamentary Space Conference

Crescent Moon, as seen from the ISS
7 November 2012

21-23 October 2012, Warsaw, Poland - Transcript of ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain's speech

Madam Speaker, Dear Prime Minister, Ministers, Dear Parliamentarians, Colleagues, Friends,

The Interparliamentary Space Conference is an event I have never missed. This is my 14th Conference, and I am always very glad to attend. I consider it both a pleasure and a duty. First of all, it is a pleasure because it is always a friendly meeting, as we are among friends of space. But it is nonetheless a duty, because, especially in the European Space Agency, we are using taxpayers’ money, and we owe it to them, as a minimum, to explain to their representatives what we are doing with that money. Maybe even more importantly, we must listen to their expectations. This is why this Conference is such an important one.

I am also glad to be back in Warsaw, one month after being here to sign the Accession Agreement of Poland as the 20th member state of ESA. It was on 13 September, and I shall always remember it as a fantastic event. This is the fifth time since I became Director General of ESA that I sign the accession agreement of a new ESA Member State. When I started there were 15 member states, and I have since signed the accession agreements with Greece, Luxemburg, the Czech Republic, Romania and now Poland. The signature of the Polish accession agreement was a huge event, with many Ministers from the Polish Government attending, including the Vice Prime Minister, which represented a good demonstration of the interest of the whole Polish Government in space and in ESA. Indeed, space is not only about research, space is not only about technology, space is not only for scientists and engineers – space is relevant to all the policies of any government. So it is a very positive signal and I thank the Government of Poland once again. ESA is stronger with Poland as a Member than it was before. And I shall continue to do my best to ensure that Poland is a happy Member State.

I have been asked to speak to you about the relationship between ESA and the EU, and before I start on this subject I would like to mention the recent successful launch of two new Galileo satellites, on 12 October. These two new satellites are now working perfectly, and I wish to emphasise that on board these European satellites are the best technologies in the world. The atomic clock on board Galileo is ten times more accurate and more stable than any other clock used by any other navigation system in the world. The signal generator is also a unique technology which does not exist anywhere else in the world. So these satellites represent a fantastic achievement by European industry. I would also like to add that we transferred the operations of Galileo during the weekend to the Oberpfaffenhofen Control Centre, meaning that the validation of the Galileo system can now start. Such validation will take some months because it is validating the system as a whole, including the space and the ground segments. Hopefully the overall system will be validated next spring and then we shall continue to deploy the constellation. I have made a commitment to the European Commission to have launched 18 Galileo satellites by the end of 2014.

Exchange of accession agreements in Warsaw

Before speaking about ESA-EU, I would also like to give you some news about the upcoming ESA Council meeting at ministerial level, which will take place in one month. These meetings, which take place only every 3-4 years, are very important because they allow the Ministers of the Member States to shape the future of ESA, but also of the overall European space sector considering the size of the investments made by the Member States through ESA, and the strong relationship between ESA and European industry.

Since the last ministerial Council, which took place in The Hague in 2008, a lot has happened. The world has changed dramatically in the last four years - and I am just speaking of space. There are new models for developing space systems in the United States – private systems based on a strong public market. Space-X, with its famous Falcon 9, is reliant upon a guaranteed NASA market with 5 launches per year guaranteed until 2020. There is also the demonstration by China of fantastic capacities, both automated and piloted, with the docking in June of their crew transportation to their space station. Thus, worldwide, there are new markets but also new competitors. This requires Europe to be even more competitive in the coming years.

In Europe, too, there have been significant changes in the last four years. First of all, the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, providing the EU with competence in space, and that is good news. I have promoted this in the last ten years and I was glad when it materialised in the Lisbon Treaty. But I would also like to mention that in these last four years a series of unprecedented successes have been achieved by ESA and European industry (ESA without European industry does not exist, and I am sure that industry without ESA would be different, too).

ATV-3 leaves Space Station

The successes of Galileo have already been mentioned, but let me add in the science domain the launch of Herschel and Planck – two unique spacecraft addressing the origin and the mapping of the Universe. We have launched three Earth Explorer satellites dedicated to Earth science and the environment –we are the space agency launching the largest number of satellites dedicated solely to understanding Earth and its environment. We are continuing to use the ISS and in May of this year there was a symposium in Berlin where we presented the outcome of our utilisation of the ISS so far, in terms of science and technology. We have launched the ATV-3, named after Edoardo Amaldi, and during the re-entry of ATV-3, last month, ATV-4, named after Albert Einstein, was already crossing the Atlantic Ocean to be launched next year, meaning that European industry is able to produce one ATV per year.

With regard to competitiveness, we launched the first real Public-Private Partnership telecom satellite in Hylas, with the British operator Avanti – a fantastic success. Member States shoulder the risk on the technology and the private operator shoulders the risk on the market – a real Public-Private Partnership with a real sharing of risks. The next PPP of that type will be launched next spring with AlphaSat and the operator Inmarsat.

In terms of services, we have launched over a three month period the third Meteosat Second Generation (MSG-3) and the second meteorology satellite in polar orbit. These are Eumetsat satellites developed by ESA within a model of cooperation between ESA and Eumetsat. In the field of navigation, the EGNOS service, which performs the augmentation of GPS capabilities above Europe, is now fully operational and transferred to the EC. And Galileo will deliver its first services very soon.

In terms of launchers, there have been 51 successful launches of Ariane 5 in a row, making it the most reliable launcher in the world. In these four years we also launched three Soyuz from French Guiana and one Vega. So we have been successful in the last four years.

The overall objective of the next ESA ministerial Council is competitiveness and growth – not of ESA but of the European space sector. Such an overall objective will require to achieve the right investments by the Member States of ESA, and a leverage of these investments through partnerships; it will also require to increase the efficiency of the overall European space sector, including the relationship between ESA and the EU and the relationship between ESA and industry. It is industry which is fighting on the commercial market, so this is where the jobs and growth are to be found.

The package that I am proposing to the Member States is a 12 billion euro package, more or less the same amount as the one proposed at the last Ministerial in 2008. That package is balanced among three strategic objectives: 1. pushing the frontiers of knowledge, because knowledge is a major pillar of competitiveness; 2. enabling services, because a significant part of the economic value of space activities lies with services, and 3. boosting the competitiveness of industry. I propose around 5 billion for ‘knowledge’, and the leverage for these investments is with international cooperation, since a significant part of what we are doing in ‘knowledge’ in science is with international cooperation. We propose around 4.5 billion for the competitiveness of European industry, and the leverage is with the developing Public Private Partnerships. And we propose 2.7 billion for services, paid by Member States, with a high leverage from the partners’ contributions, namely Eumetsat for meteorology and the EU for all services related to the EU.

Let me now address the subject of relations between ESA and the EU. Clearly, the EU is very important in space. For me, connecting ESA and the EU means connecting the space world with European citizens. Today, there is not a single European citizen not using space on a daily basis, even if they do not know it. Be it for weather forecasts, for navigation, for telecommunications, be it for the direct TV broadcast when there is a football final anywhere in the world, all European citizens use space. So space is not a problem, it is in fact a solution for the citizen, and I want to make sure that what we are doing at ESA is directly responding to European policies’ needs: for the environment, for security, development, agriculture, transport, and so on …

Furthermore, relations between ESA and the EU should not be a problem because 18 Member States are common to ESA and the EU, that is 90% of ESA and two thirds of EU Member States. This means that, theoretically, the same Member States should have the same policy, be it at ESA or at the EU. There is already a substantial cooperation between ESA and the EU: the flagship programmes Galileo and GMES (and by the way I agree that Copernicus is a much better name than GMES!), a cooperation decided and developed before the Lisbon Treaty. I would thus like to make sure that the Lisbon Treaty means further progress, not the opposite. So ESA and the EU are working together on Galileo and GMES, and we have many common aspects beyond the Member States: we have the same industry, the same citizens, the same objectives of growth and competitiveness.

Yes, there are also differences. First of all, some Member States are in one organisation and not in the other, but ESA already has cooperation agreements with EU Member States not members of ESA. There are differences in our financial systems and we have to make sure that the two financial systems can be consistent, which is not so difficult to achieve.


There is always the question of industrial policy, and sometimes “geographical return” sounds like an insult in Europe. However I would like to go beyond the dogma, whether for or against geographical return, and look at the facts. First of all, geographical return does not prevent ESA from organising a lot of industrial competition, quite the contrary. The largest industrial competitions organised in Europe have been within ESA programmes. The competition on Meteosat Third Generation, managed by ESA, was much larger than that for Galileo. Second, , it is a rule, which sets a boundary condition, and frankly speaking it is usually better to have a rule when you have to cooperate. Once the limit of 0.84 for overall return has been reached, I have done my job, and ESA retains some flexibility in the application of the rule. Third, I think that ESA programmes represent the best value for money – the budget of ESA is five times smaller than the budget of NASA, and with five times less money we often manage to do the best projects. Fourth, European industry is very competitive on worldwide commercial markets of telecommunications and launch services. Finally, geographical return is also an instrument for Member States to invest in a domain driven by government policies. Space is not a market-driven field, and geographical return can be an instrument to reindustrialise. Indeed, space industry is one of the very few industries in Europe which is not delocalised, which does not export jobs outside Europe. Most of European space industry firms today originate from ESA programmes: Astrium is a consortium initially built in response to ESA programmes, same for Thales Alenia. So all in all, geographical return is a constraint, but it is also a tool which has led to success.

ESA and the EU should work on a complementary basis that is the only right way to have ESA and the EU working together. ESA is a research & development organisation; that is what ESA is good at, and it has the flexibility to do R&D, especially through its optional programmes. The EU should be in charge of exploiting all that R&D in order to share the benefits among all the Member States of the EU and ESA. It is based on that complementarity that we will improve the efficiency and the competitiveness of the overall European sector.

I am confident that the next ESA Council at ministerial level will be a success. I am meeting Ministers almost on a daily basis now, and all Ministers are eager for success and for a successful ESA ministerial Council which will be good for all of Europe.

In conclusion, there is a tendency in Europe to underline only what is not working. I would like to emphasise that space is working and that it is a fantastic success story of Europe. With space we are inventing the future, we are enabling it, we are not living in the past. The geography of Europe in space may not be a uniform one, but success will not come from uniformity. Yes, Europe is complex, but I think instead of trying in vain to make it simple, we should use this complexity. Success will not come from uniformity, it will come from expertise. And this is the most important point: expertise is the best guarantee of continued success for Europe in space.

Thank you very much.

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