ESA's organs and functioning

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ESA / About Us / Law at ESA

In its Convention, two organs are defined in order to run the European Space Agency: the Council and the Director General. The Council is the organ representing the Member States, it meets as and when required either at Ministerial or delegate level. Appointed by the Council, the Director General represents the Agency in all its acts.

The Ministers of ESA Member States gather every 2-3 years to define the policy to be followed in pursuit of ESA purpose. During these Councils at Ministerial Level, decisions are taken on the main orientations for the upcoming years, the level of resources to the Agency and to programmes. They also agree to start new programmes or eventually to terminate them.

On a more regular basis, Delegations nominated by the Member States meet during the Council organised mainly at ESA Headquarters (Paris, France). During these sessions, they review each programme, prioritise them and determine the course of their implementation. They adopt the budgets, the financial and staff regulations. More generally, they take all measures necessary for the fulfilment of the goals of the Agency.

Each Member State has one vote and it is represented by a delegation composed by a maximum of 2 persons. However a Member State shall only have the right to vote on matters concerning exclusively accepted programmes in which it takes part.

As planned in the Convention, the Council has set-up subordinate bodies to be assisted in its duty. Each of the Committees and Boards take decisions, make recommendations or are kept informed according to the amount of powers invested in them by the Council in their given area of responsibilities. Each Member States nominates its representation to the boards and committees; these delegates are often accompanied by experts.


Administrative and Finance Committee (AFC)
Acting in close liaison with other boards and committees, the AFC makes recommendations to the Council, the Programme Boards and the Director General, as appropriate, on matters of an administrative, staff, financial or legal nature.

Industrial Policy Committee (IPC)
The IPC’s role is to define, implement and monitor ESA’s industrial policy. It also approves the procurement and contract proposals submitted to it for the conduct of ESA’s activities. Doing so, the IPC ensures fairness in the access of ESA procurement among its Member and cooperating States.

As a key player in the European space area, IPC has to increase fairness in the access to ESA procurement by all firms, including Small and Medium Enterprises. It monitors the trend and evolution of industry and defines suitable approach for programmes supporting worldwide competitiveness of European industry.

IPC is also competent for the authorisation of transfer of technology outside ESA Member States.

International Relations Committee (IRC)
The task of the IRC is twofold. On one hand, it assists the Council in concerting the policies of the Member States in the space field with respect to other national and international organisations and institutions, with the aim of arriving at a common position in international bodies. On the other side, it submits views and recommendations with regard to cooperation with other international organisations and institutions and with Governments, organisations and institutions of non-member States. The Director General, the Council and other boards may consult it on any matters that may affect international relations.

Security Committee (SEC)
The SEC has been created to advise the Director General and the Council on issues ranging from the physical security of the installation of the Agency, in particular with the protection of classified information or material, to industrial security policy and its implementation in the contracts of the Agency.

Science Programme Committee (SPC)
The SPC is the only committee, the creation of which is explicitly provided for by the ESA Convention itself. The Council shall refer to SPC for any matter relating to the mandatory scientific programme. The SPC is following scientific projects from their selection to their execution, as well as forward-looking studies with a view to the preparation and selection of future projects.


The boards listed below have been created by the Council, each with its own field of activities; as a consequence they are given various level of decision power. They can be consulted by any other board or committee on specific matters and have a duty to report to the Council when deemed necessary.

Joint Board on Communication Satellite Programme (JCB)
The JCB is a merger of the Communication Satellite Programme Board and the Maritime Satellite Programme Board set up under the arrangements by certain Member States of ESRO and ELDO. This board is competent for the telecom field, with programmes such as Artemis, Artes and deals with the preparation and development of activities in the area of fixed, mobile, broadcasting and multimedia services.

Launchers Programme Board (PB-LAU)
Originally, the PB-LAU was set-up to follow up the Ariane Programme (the PB-LAU was formerly called Programme Board Ariane – PB-ARIANE). New programmes such as VEGA, Soyuz at CSG have been initiated since then and are also followed by this board.

Programme Board for Earth Observation (PB-EO)
The PB-EO coordinates the European and national Earth observation activities and makes recommendations to the Council with regard to future programme and decisions that remain within the competence of the Council.

Programme Board for Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration (PB-HME)
The PB-HME is entrusted with the responsibility to coordinate and monitor the execution of the various activities related to the Agency’s human spaceflight development and exploitation, life and physical sciences and application in space as well as exploration programmes. In particular, it coordinates Europe’s contribution to the International Space Station.

Programme Board on Satellite Navigation (PB-NAV)
The PB-NAV is competent on satellite navigation programmes carried out in the frame of the Agency, which presently include  EGNOS and Galileo.

Programme Board on Space Situational Awareness (PB-SSA)
The PB-SSA is the most recently created programme board of the Agency. Its role is to coordinate and monitor the execution of the Agency’s preparatory and development activities for a Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme.


Some additional committees or Government representatives meetings have been created outside the framework of the Convention, they are:

Programme Advisory Committee (PAC)
The PAC set up in the framework of the Special Project concerning the launching of sounding rockets and stratospheric balloons from Esrange (Sweden) and Andøya (Norway).

Coordination Committee for the implementation of the Inter-governmental Agreement on the International Space Station (IGA-CC)
The IGA-CC set up through an act in Council, to follow the implementation of the International Space Station Agreement (IGA) for the European Partner.

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