Long-term success comes down to ESA’s ‘Basic Activities’, which amount to the entire mandatory element of the ESA budget, other than the Science Directorate. They are mandatory because they are not only important but essential, a key ingredient in the magic formula behind ESA’s historic achievements.
Essentially Basic Activities are part of ESA’s ‘membership fee’ but this investment results in solid benefits for Member States, their scientists and their industries, as well the optional ESA programmes – such as Earth observation and exploration missions.
Basic Activities comprise a portfolio of ESA undertakings that stay invisible most of the time because they simply work – and work well.
These range from laboratories, ground stations and control facilities to European-wide early-stage technology development efforts, actions to support innovation and standardisation, highly secure networks and IT infrastructure and cybersecurity.
The global deep-space communication antenna network supported by Basic Activities is second only to NASA’s. Basic Activities also underpins a world-beating array of laboratories and test infrastructure – including the largest satellite test centre in Europe.
Basic Activities is also the source of intangible assets such as decades of accumulated expertise across an enormous range of skillsets, like highly-precise navigation through the Solar System or testing and developing technologies that will enable Europe’s autonomous access and exploitation of space.
All these essential resources, supported through Basic Activities, are also at the disposal of those who enable them: ESA Member States, their national agencies and their companies.
Without them, no ESA mission would fly.
Next part: First contact with new ideas
(Photo: Calculating the deployment of Mars Express's MARSIS radar antenna)
ESA Basic Activities at Space19+
For ESA’s next Ministerial Council, Space19+, set for the end of this year, the Agency is asking Europe’s space ministers for a substantial investment for its core Basic Activities, helping to support a new generation of space missions as efficiently as possible. ESA’s Basic Activities have three main objectives: to enable the future through early stage research and development, commencing the Agency’s seamless grid of innovation; develop and maintain ESA’s common infrastructure and expertise; and, develop, preserve and disseminate knowledge for European capacity building and sustainable growth – inspiring and promoting creativity.