ESA and Portugal sign agreement on tracking station in the Azores
On 26 November 2005, ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain and the Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology and Universities, Prof. José Mariano Gago, signed an agreement between ESA and the Portuguese Government for the setting up and use of an ESA tracking station in the Azores.
Prof. Mariano Gago said, "the installation of this station is strategic to Portugal as it will allow a more intense collaboration between Portugal and ESA". The agreement was signed during this year's Space Forum, held in Lisbon in the Knowledge Pavilion of the Science Museum. This yearly event offers companies the opportunity to meet new industrial partners and develop cooperation and business agreements. The Space Forum took place during Portugal's National Week of Science and Technology Programme. A number of other events also took place during the week to increase public interest in science and technology.
Santa Maria, the island in the Azores selected for ESA's new tracking station, offers an excellent location for the installation and operation of a transportable down-range station for the reception of telemetry for Ariane launches. The first launch to be monitored from Santa Maria will take place in the first half of 2007, when Jules Verne, the first Automated Transfer Vehicle to be sent to the International Space Station, lifts off from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana.
During his speech, the Minister, Prof. Gago, described the significant improvement in technological evolution that has taken place in Portugal over the past five years, since Portugal became a member of ESA. "The technological jump we have seen since we entered ESA is impressive," he said, giving as one example the high number of new companies created by young graduates that previously worked as ESA trainees. Jean-Jacques Dordain spoke about some of the highlights of ESA's recent successes concerning science and technology and outlined how he envisaged the participation of Portuguese industry and institutes in ESA activities over the coming years.
The infrastructure for the new ESA tracking station in the Azores will be under the management of Portuguese companies and institutions. ESA has already collaborated with Portuguese companies in a number of areas including flight hardware, software, electronic components, telecommunications, meteorology, transport and energy.
In the evening after the signing, Jean-Jacques Dordain participated in a conference hosted by Jorge Sampaio, the President of the Portuguese Republic. Also present were Prof. Mariano Gago; Prof. Jean-Pierre Contzen, President of the International Evaluation Committee of the Portuguese Public Laboratories; and Joan Solomon, Professor of Science Education and President of the International Advisory Committee of Portugal's Agency for Science and Technological Culture.
At the conference Mr Sampaio spoke about the need for Portuguese investment in science education and its importance for the development and for the economy.