European Ministers agree to unblock Space Station funds
Ministers in charge of space affairs in Europe, meeting in Paris on 27 May 2003, unanimously agreed to unblock funds for the exploitation of the International Space Station.
The Ministers responsible for space matters in ESA’s fifteen Member States and Canada yesterday held a one-day meeting at the Agency’s Paris headquarters. This was a follow-on from the ministerial gathering that took place in November 2001 in Edinburgh.
At the previous Ministerial meeting, part of the funds necessary for European exploitation of the Space Station had been blocked pending clarification of the ISS programme situation. The Ministers now agreed to unblock an important part of ISS Exploitation Programme funds, to cover time-critical activities mainly related to the availability of ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and to the European ISS ground segment. Timely availability of the ATV will help to make up for a reduced Shuttle fleet after the Columbia accident.
The decision on unblocking the remainder of the ISS Exploitation Programme funds will be taken before the end of 2003.
"The decision of the Ministerial Council demonstrates the strong commitment of the European Member States towards the ISS programme", said Jörg Feustel-Büechl, Director of Human Spaceflight at ESA. "The Automated Transfer Vehicle is vital for the ISS. The funds, which have been unblocked, allow us to continue building the ATV, to set up the necessary ground structure to operate it and finally, to launch it on an Ariane 5. The ATV is without a doubt the most complex and sophisticated space vehicle ever developed in Europe"