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ESA / About Us / Ministerial Council 2012


Decisions were taken on the start of new programmes and the continuation of current programmes.

The Agency’s mandatory activities for 2013–17

All Member States contribute to the mandatory activities, which include the Scientific programme and the Basic activities. Decisions are taken unanimously.

Ministers approved the Level of Resources for mandatory activities for the period 2013-2017. The approved funding reflects the unanimous agreement by Member States to maintain the scientific and technological excellence of mandatory activities during a time of budget constraints.

In the science programme, ministers supported the continuation of new missions and the continued implementation of Cosmic Vision 2015–25.

Within this new subscription period (2013-2017), the science programme will launch Gaia, the mission that will map our Galaxy and catalogue a billion stars, LISA Pathfinder, which will redefine the understanding of time and space, and BepiColombo, ESA’s mission to Mercury.

The implementation of new missions such as Solar Orbiter, Euclid and Juice will proceed.

The basic activities include technology research, development and transfer. These will focus on preparing the future by studying and developing cutting-edge technologies, strengthening the available technical assets, creating the conditions for competitiveness and job creation in the space sector, and the preservation of scientific and environmental data from space missions.

Continuation of current optional programmes and start of new programmes

ESA Member States invest in optional programmes according to their national priorities and interests.


Subscriptions were secured for the detailed definition studies of the new launcher Ariane 6 and the continuation of the development of Ariane 5 ME adapted with the goal to develop as many commonalities as possible between the two launchers. These activities are funded for two years with a decision on the continuation of both launchers to be taken in 2014.

Ministers funded the programme of evolution of the Vega launcher for 2013–16 (VECEP) as well as the Launchers Exploitation Accompaniment Programme (LEAP), which provides a stable frame for exploiting ESA-developed launchers for 2013–14.

They also authorised development to begin of the successor to the IXV Intermediate Experimental Vehicle – the Programme for Reusable In-orbit Demonstrator in Europe (Pride). Pride aims to create an affordable small reusable unmanned spaceplane.

As part of the Resolution on the funding by ESA of the Guiana Space Centre (CSG), a financial scheme was agreed for 2012–17 covering ESA’s part in funding the fixed costs of Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Earth Observation

Member States supported all the proposed Earth observation programmes.

Ministers decided to subscribe to the fourth Earth Observation Envelope Programme (EOEP-4). The programme includes the Earth Explorer missions and the exploitation element. It strengths the competitive position of European and Canadian industry and institutions by developing and promoting marketable Earth observation services.

Done in cooperation with the European Commission, The GMES Space Component Programme (GSC-3), including the Jason-CS sea level measurement mission and the Sentinel-5 atmospheric monitoring mission, was subscribed for 2013–14. Member States also started subscribing for the next timeframe, 2015–20, which will be tabled at the next Ministerial Council, in 2014.

Together with Eumetsat, ESA will undertake the Metop-SG programme. As of 2020, a new generation of satellites will continue and improve current services. The data coming from this programme are the basis of the daily weather forecasts. The funding for the ESA part of the programme was secured.

Human Spaceflight and Exploration

The funding for the exploitation of the International Space Station (ISS), including the ‘barter element’ with NASA, was secured for 2013–14.

For the barter element by which ESA funds its quote part of the ISS operations costs, Ministers gave the green light for Europe to provide the service module of NASA’s new Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) as an in-kind contribution for ISS operations for 2017–20. This decision is strategically important for Europe as it will allow ESA to be in the critical path of future human space exploration endeavours, together with NASA. It will built on the expertise of European industry on Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-derived technology.

The continuation of the European programme for life and physical sciences (ELIPS-4) covering 2013–16 was approved. ELIPS allows Europe to capitalise on its investment in the ISS, supporting research and industry-driven development, together with preparing for the future human exploration of space.

For destination Mars, ministers agreed to subscribe to the Mars Robotic Exploration Preparation Programme (MREP-2) and to provide additional subscriptions to Exomars.

MREP-2 will further develop the technology for a future Mars sample-return mission with international cooperation in the next decade.


Telecommunications satellites are the mainstay of the space industry. In the last decade, European geostationary telecom satellite integrators have captured 35% of the market, up from 20% a decade before.

The telecommunication programme is built around ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunication Systems (ARTES) programme, which transforms research and development into commercial products and systems.

Ministers secured funding for ARTES 1, the strategy element of the ARTES programme, for the period 2013-2015.

Ministers also agreed to fund ARTES 3-4, the Core World Competitiveness element (2013-2016). This includes securing ‘first flight’ opportunities for telecommunication equipment on commercial telecom satellites, giving new and upgraded products developed by European industry a greater commercial chance in the competitive worldwide satellite communication market.

ARTES 5 (Core Telecommunications technology) was also adopted, for 2013-2015.

ARTES 10 (IRIS). Ministers initiated the development of the precursor services of the communication system for aircraft management, in partnership with the largest European operator in the domain.

ARTES 14, Neosat, will in partnership with industry develop a new platform for 3–6 tonne geostationary satellites, which today represent 80% of the market value. It aims to provide industry with the necessary technologies to capture at least 50% of the satellite communication market as the fleet is renewed in 2018–30. This is expected to generate €25 billion in satellites sales. The programme was financed by Ministers at the meeting.

ARTES 20, Integrated Applications Promotion (IAP), focuses on improving the use of existing space assets and technologies, promoting services to new user communities. Projects can offer solution areas ranging from securing and improving transport system to developing emergency and disaster management systems. The programme was subscribed for another four years and is aiming at introducing three new sustainable services per year.

ARTES 21, the Satellite-Automatic Identification System (SAT-AIS), will, in cooperation with the European Maritime Safety Agency, develop a sustainable space-based service that will identify and track vessels around the globe. SAT-AIS secured funding for 2013–15, when it will be completely operational as a new service.

ARTES 33, Partner, is a framework for Public–Private Partnerships, enabled by European technology innovation and mission. Ministers gave the green light for the Electra partnership, which will develop the first fully electric propulsion satellite in competition with similar developments by US industry. Electric propulsion will be a big step forward for the satellite business, by advancing miniaturisation and reducing business risk.


ESA acts as design and procurement agent on behalf of the European Commission for the navigation programmes.

Ministers approved the extension of EGEP, the European GNSS Evolution Programme for 2013–15. EGEP will start work on the next versions of EGNOS and the Galileo satellites and prepare future services.

Space Situational Awareness (SSA)

Ministers decided to continue to support the build-up of a SSA capability in close cooperation with ESA’s Member States and European partners. This programme provides the information to help protect European space systems against space debris and the influence of adverse space weather.

Funding was cleared for Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) and Space Weather (SWE) activities.


Technology and innovation is the basis of all space activities, and is also the source for industrial competitiveness that push economic growth and jobs.

In addition to the Technology Research Programme (TRP), which is a mandatory programme, financed by the Level of Resources, Ministers subscribed to the optional General Support Technology (GSTP) programme for 2013–17. GSTP provides technologies for a wide range of new space programmes in all domains except telecommunications.

As part of GSTP, ministers authorised the creation of a Small Missions programme, defined as 30–300 kg spacecraft, either as a single platform or as constellations. The initiative opens up space for smaller Member States, small- and medium-sized businesses, and various other organisations to benefit from space technologies.

Bridging both TRP and GSTP is the European Components Initiative that aims of maintaining and further developing a European industrial base for critical technologies needed by all European space missions. This key initiative has over a few years managed to turn Europe from a net importer of components into a net exporter. The programme will focus on ensuring industry can produce more elaborate, high value components in the future. It is expected that as of 2015 EU funding will be available for this activity.

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