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N° 41–2013: UK centre stone-laying launches European space celebrations

5 December 2013

The first stones of ESA’s new establishment in the UK were laid in a ceremony today by Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, UK Minister of Universities and Science David Willets and the first ESA Director General, Roy Gibson.

While placing one of the stones in a sculpture that will later grace the establishment’s courtyard, Mr Dordain revealed that the first building of ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications, or ECSAT, scheduled for completion in 2015, will be named after Mr Gibson.

He also announced that 2014 will see celebrations of 50 years of European cooperation in space, with major events in all ESA establishments, including HQ and ECSAT, as well as in the capitals of some Member States.

Mr Dordain noted: “I stand here next to the man who drove ESA at the very beginning of its history, and with the symbolic representation of ESA’s future building. The UK space sector has been around for as long as ESA, and it is fitting that our first ever Director General hailed from this country, and ECSAT is marking the renewed ambitions of the UK in using space for competitiveness and growth, in particular within the ESA framework.

“Fifty  years of Europe’s cooperation in space and the 50th anniversary of the birth of the two predecessors that led to ESA is an important milestone, and I am happy to mark it in such a way.”

Mr Dordain then presented Roy Gibson with the future building’s plaque bearing his name, and a calendar representing the achievements of ESA.

Roy Gibson responded: “I am honoured to be part of this celebration of ESA in the UK. It has been a particular pleasure of mine to see how ESA has developed over the years, and particularly in recent times how the UK government is working more closely with ESA.”

The Roy Gibson Building is set to be one-of-a-kind in the UK, with almost zero carbon emissions and a dedicated area open to the public, emphasising its cooperative nature on the campus. This also makes it unique as an ESA centre.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, added: "The UK is taking a stronger role in the European Space Agency and this new centre is an embodiment of our intention to work more closely together. I have high hopes that this centre will allow us to maximise the potential of space for future economic growth, keeping the UK at the forefront of the global science race."

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. It 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 20 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 18 are Member States of the EU.

ESA has Cooperation Agreements with eight other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

ESA is also working with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.

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.

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

Today, it 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.

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For further information:

ESA Media Relations Office


Tel: +33 1 53 69 72 99