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N° 49–2015: Call for Media: ESA DG’s annual introduction and EDRS information session

11 December 2015

On Friday, 15 January, ESA Director General Jan Woerner will meet the media to provide an overview of ESA’s achievements in 2015 and the opportunities ahead in 2016. The briefing will take place at ESA headquarters.

A background briefing on EDRS, the European Data Relay System, will follow (see ESA PR  50-2015).

The Director General will introduce another year of ESA highlights in all space domains, demonstrating the strength of European space activities both far away in our Solar System and right here on Earth.

For science, two distant missions can be expected to dominate the headlines.

Currently between Mars and Jupiter, the Rosetta mission with the Philae lander has captured the world’s imagination for the last two years. In 2016 it will provide more scientific discoveries before coming to a symbolic end with the Rosetta orbiter joining Philae on the surface of comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

ExoMars, a joint mission between ESA and Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, will open a new era for Europe, moving from remote observation to in situ surface exploration of Mars.

The first ExoMars mission, to be launched in March for arrival in October 2016, comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter, which will attempt to determine the biological or geological origin of important trace gases on Mars and the EDM module (the Entry, Descent and Landing demonstrator), which will test key landing technologies needed for the 2018 mission and future missions on Mars.

Much closer to home Earth, the year will begin with the launch in January of the first payload (EDRS-A) of the European Data Relay System, a public–private partnership between ESA and Airbus Defence & Space.

EDRS, which will relay data from satellites in non-geostationary orbit, will dramatically increase the speed of transmission, allowing for near-realtime services on a global scale.

Continuing within telecommunications from geostationary orbit, ESA is also looking forward to another public–private partnership being launched last quarter 2016: SmallGEO.

SmallGEO is a general-purpose modular geostationary platform that is giving European industry the opportunity to play a significant role in the commercial telecom market.

SmallGEO’s first use is for Hispasat’s Advanced Generation-1 (AG1) satellite, a public–private partnership between ESA and the Spanish operator that will provide Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands and the Americas with faster multimedia services.

ESA’s strong partnership with the EU will result in several launches during the year.

It will see the launch in October of the next four Galileo satellites, for the first time on an Ariane 5 rocket, bringing the total number of satellites in space to 16 and opening initial services.

The Copernicus Earth observation programme, a joint initiative of ESA and the European Commission, will see the launches of several satellites.

Sentinel-3A, to be launched in January, will measure sea-surface topography, sea- and land-surface temperature, and ocean- and land-surface colour for ocean forecasting, and for environmental and climate monitoring.

Sentinel‑5P, to be launched in May or June, will measure elements of atmospheric chemistry at high temporal and spatial resolution, and increase the frequency of cloud-free observations required for the study of troposphere variability. In particular, it is expected to measure ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols.

The year will also see the launch of the second member of two pairs of Copernicus satellites. With Sentinel‑1B (April) and Sentinel‑2B (end of year) in orbit, Europe will have optimal coverage and data delivery from the advanced radar and the high-resolution multispectral camera, respectively, on the satellites.

Further down in low orbit, the International Space Station will see continuing science experiments and host two ESA astronauts this year. Tim Peake, ESA British astronaut, is already working on the orbiting research complex and will return to Earth in June. Thomas Pesquet, ESA French astronaut, will lift off in November for a long-duration flight of six months.

On Earth, Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana will maintain a high launch cadence in 2016, using the launcher family of Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega for commercial and governmental customers. The launch complex for Ariane 6 is also under development, located just north of the Ariane 5 launch pad.

Media can also look forward to several events during the year.

The Living Planet Symposium in Prague is promising to be the largest Earth observation symposium in the world, with over 2700 abstracts submitted.

ESA will also participate as usual in the airshows in Berlin (ILA) and the United Kingdom (Farnborough).

The year will culminate with the ESA Council at Ministerial Level in December, this time hosted in Lucerne, Switzerland, which is expected to give fresh impetus to existing and new ESA programmes.

Further information

For more information and dates of activities, ESA Media Relations is updating the Media Calendar and list of official dates for upcoming launches. Both are available on the dedicated media site on ESA’s Internet portal:

The news conference will be livestreamed at Media and the public may ask questions during the briefing on Twitter using the hashtag #askESADG or by tweeting to @janwoerner


All times in CET

08:30   Doors open

09:00   Briefing by the Director General, followed by interview opportunities

11:00    End of the session.

11:30    Start of EDRS briefing (see ESA PR 51-2015)

Attending the event

The event will take place at ESA headquarters: 8 rue Mario Nikis, 75015 Paris, France.

Media representatives wishing to attend are requested to register at:

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 20 are Member States of the EU.

ESA has established formal cooperation with seven other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

Learn more about ESA at

For further information, please contact:

ESA Media Relations Office
Tel: +33 1 53 69 72 99