ESA's Headquarters are located in Paris. The main administrative centre, ESA HQ 'Mario-Nikis', is located in the 15th arrondissement and ESA HQ 'Daumesnil' houses the Directorate of Launchers in the 12th arrondissement.
The Director General and cabinet have their offices at HQ Mario-Nikis as do some of the Programme Directors. The decisions that shape ESA’s present and future activities are made here.
The ESA Council
ESA’s governing body, the Council, is responsible for drawing up the European Space Plan and ensuring the long-term funding of the Agency’s activities. Each ESA Member State has one vote and is represented by a Council delegate from the ministry responsible for space activities in each Member State.
Council meetings are held every three months at delegate level and every two to three years at ministerial level. Meetings at delegate level usually take place at ESA’s HQ Mario-Nikis.
ESA Member States
To ensure that ESA remains at the forefront of space research and exploration, ESA frequently joins in cooperative ventures with other spacefaring nations such as the United States, Russia, China, Canada, India and Japan. Negotiations with countries wishing to join ESA also take place in Paris.
ESA interacts with international organisations such as the United Nations World Meteorological Organisation, the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. ESA HQ Mario-Nikis also hosts the International Astronautical Federation (IAF).
Planning for the future
A General Studies Programme was set up to assist the ESA Council in selecting future programmes. This programme selects innovative ideas for future activities by drawing upon ESA’s technical experts, as well as institutions and industries in Member States.
Not all proposals materialise into funded programmes. On closer examination, activities may prove to be too expensive, less interesting than expected or unrealistic with the foreseeable technology. Early feedback of this kind prevents ESA and European industry from making costly mistakes.
Europe’s citizens fund ESA, therefore, it is important to ensure that they are aware of ESA's achievements and of how public money is being spent.
ESA’s Communication Department is responsible for keeping the world’s media, decision makers and the public up to date with what is happening at ESA and providing news on all its latest activities. One of this department's main activities is to organise large media events and press conferences, and prepare written and audiovisual material for target groups. The Communications policy is drawn up and coordinated from ESA HQ Mario-Nikis but is delegated to ESA’s establishments for specific activities at regional level.
ESA takes part in all the major conferences, symposia and space-related events. These act as a forum for the exchange of ideas and help to increase public awareness of ESA. The Communication Department in Paris also organises exhibitions, and maintains the main photo and video archives.
Even the most innovative space research can not be put into operation unless ESA has highly qualified staff capable of putting good ideas into effect. It is also important that ESA’s activities are carried out efficiently and cost-effectively in order to ensure that the contributions of Member States are used wisely.
To carry out its programmes ESA needs to recruit experts in many different fields from all ESA’s Member States. ESA’s recruitment policy is decided and administered in ESA HQ Mario-Nikis. Each ESA centre also has an office for human resources that reports directly to the head office in Paris.
Careful controls are in place to ensure that ESA and its centres work within their budgets. In addition, the Office of Internal Audit ensures transparency in all ESA’s dealings.
ESA’s Legal Office is responsible for all legal matters concerned with ESA and space. ESA HQ Mario-Nikis also hosts the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL). This organisation aims to improve research in space law within Europe as well as its practice.
Without launchers space exploration would be impossible. ESA’s Launchers Programme is responsible for researching and developing ideas for new launchers. It also oversees the launch and production facilities at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
ESA’s Launchers Programme is responsible for developing the Ariane launchers that have proved so successful. Recent activities include the launch of the first Soyuz from Europe's Spaceport and development of the new Vega small launcher.
ESA is also preparing new launch systems to respond better to Europe's future institutional needs and to continue at the forefront of new developments in space.
ESA's programme dedicated to the preparation of this future, the Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP), began in 2003. It oversees system studies and research activities to foster new technologies capable of delivering high performance and reliability coupled with reduced operational costs.
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Last update: 30 January 2012