When companies manufacture components, systems or entire satellites for space they follow a single technical ‘recipe book’ that ESA helps write and keeps updated.
We are a leading member of a body called the European Cooperation for Space Standardization, an initiative to develop a single set of user-friendly standards for all European space activities, from project management and parts manufacturing to the testing of both hardware and software.
This results in continual improvements in the quality, functional integrity and compatibility of all space projects, while reducing costs. It also helps define whole new markets, by ensuring parts from different companies end up being fully interoperable.
As a practical example of ECSS in effect, the top solderers in Europe receive training in these standards in order to work on ESA missions.
On the international level, ESA represents Europe in the ‘Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems’ with our international partners. Its technical standards enable true cooperation through interoperability for the benefit of national agencies, established space companies and new commercial space actors.
Through this committee for instance, ESA’s Mars Express in orbit around the Red Planet can relay data from NASA’s Curiosity rover on the surface, as can ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter. Similarly ESA ground stations can be used to communicate with missions of our partners and vice versa.
ESA is also the driving force behind the European Space Components Coordination, a set of processes that among other benefits, produces a ‘European Preferred Parts List’ – a regularly updated list of fully-qualified, high-performance parts for use in space. Its existence boosts mission reliability and makes European companies more competitive in global markets.
Next part: Ground tracking stations
(Photo: Space component microsections for quality checks)
ESA Basic Activities at Space19+
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.