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Science & Exploration

N° 4–1998: European ministers and officials to sign Space Station agreements in Washington

29 January 1998

Ministers, ambassadors and senior government officials of 11 ESA Member States (1)meet today their counterparts from the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada in Washington, DC, on Thursday 29 January to sign agreements on the International Space Station. The signing ceremony will be held at the U.S. Department of State at 16.00 local time (22.00 Central European Time).

A representative of each of the 15 countries participating in the Space Station will sign the 1998 Intergovernmental Agreement on Space Station Cooperation which establishes the framework for cooperation among the partners for the design, development, operation and utilisation of the Space Station. It defines the rights and obligations of each of the countries and their jurisdiction and control with respect to their elements of the Space Station.

Antonio Rodotà, the Director General of ESA, the European cooperating agency in the programme, together with the Administrator of NASA, the U.S.'s cooperating agency, will also sign a memorandum of understanding. That accord supplements the intergovernmental agreement and defines the roles and responsibilities of each agency in the design, development, operation and utilisation of the Station for its planned 10- to 15-year lifetime. The space agencies representing Russia, Japan and Canada will sign similar memoranda of understanding with NASA.

The International Space Station will be the first international, permanently occupied outpost in space. It will serve as a versatile research institute that will orbit the Earth for more than 10 years and as an innovative centre for testing new technologies under space's unique conditions.The first element of the Space Station is currently scheduled to be launched in June of this year.

ESA-delivered hardware will be on board more than one third of the 47 flights required to assemble the Space Station. In addition to a number of early delivery items, Europe's participation is centred on a European laboratory module, named the Columbus Orbital Facility, which will become the main workplace for the European astronauts living on the Station, and on the contribution of flights by Europe's Ariane 5 launcher, coupled with an Automated Transfer Vehicle that will carry supplies and propellant to the Station.

The first element of European hardware to be launched, the Data Management System that will be the central on-board computer of the Russian Service Module, was recently delivered. ESA has also started cooperation with NASA on a prototype vehicle (X-38), a precursor craft for emergency crew return.

(1) Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

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