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Key dates 1960-2018

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ESA / About Us / ESA history


1 December - Intergovernmental conference at Meyrin, Switzerland, setting up a European Preparatory Commission for Space Research (COPERS)


29 March - Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Australia (associate member) sign in London the Convention creating the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO)

14 June - Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom sign in Paris the Convention creating the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO). Approval given for ESLAR, an ESRO laboratory for advanced research to be located in Italy (later renamed ESRIN, European Space Research Institute)

1 November - Dr Albert Walter Lines (GB) nominated as Technical Director to head the European space technology centre. Under his authority, Mr A. Kesselring (CH) is named first Director of ESTEC in 1964


1 January - Under Dr Sidney Shapcott (GB), later Director of Projects at ESTEC, planning of the ESTEC facility begins at the Technical University of Delft, Netherlands

Autumn - European Space Data Analysis Centre (ESDAC) established in Darmstadt, Germany (renamed and repurposed as ESOC in 1967), headed by Stig Comet (SE)


29 February - ELDO Convention comes into force

20 March - ESRO Convention enters into force

29 July - First Director of ESRIN, Hermann L. Jordan (DE) appointed


1 March - Foundation pile laid for ESTEC in Noordwijk. The first major vacuum test facility is installed on 1 September


1 January - ESRIN is formed in Frascati, Italy. Staff are installed in temporary accommodation in the Park Hotel, Frascati. Foundation stone for the new building is laid in September 1968


8 September - ESOC inaugurated by then Minister of Research of the Federal Republic of Germany, Gerhard Stoltenberg


17 May - Launch of ESRO 2B intended to study cosmic rays and solar X-rays, the first successful satellite launch by ESRO


20 December - First Package Deal which permits ESRO to pursue application programmes comes into effect


12 and 31 July - Second Package Deal: The European Space Conference (ESC) meeting in Brussels decides the start of three new programmes: Spacelab, L3S (Ariane) and MAROTS and the creation of the European Space Agency (ESA)


30 May - Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany (Federal Republic), Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom sign the Convention on the establishment of ESA

9 August - Launch of COS-B, first ESA mission to study gamma-ray sources

31 December - Ireland signs the ESA Convention and becomes ESA's 11th Member State


13 May - Establishment of the Eutelsat (European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation), an intergovernmental organisation by PTT administrations in Europe

23 November - Meteosat-1 is launched on a Thor Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral


11 May - Launch of OTS-2 (Orbital Test Satellite-2), ESA's first comsat


1 January - The first five-year Cooperation Agreement between Canada and ESA comes into effect

24 December - The first Ariane is launched from the Guiana Space Centre


26 March - Arianespace, the world's first commercial space transportation company is created

3 July - Decision to upgrade Ariane to Ariane 3 designed to launch two satellites into GTO


28 November - First Spacelab launch with Ulf Merbold (DE), ESA's first astronaut and first non-US citizen to fly on the US Space Shuttle


30-31 January - ESA Ministerial Council in Rome: ministers approve the start of preparatory work on the Ariane 5 launch vehicle


13-14 March - Successful historic encounter of Giotto with Comet Halley

June - The Eumetsat Convention enters into force


1 January - Austria and Norway become ESA's 12th and 13th Member States

9-10 November - ESA Ministerial Council in The Hague: ministers approve the development of Ariane 5


29 September - Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the design, and development of the Space Station Freedom signed by ESA and NASA in Washington

15 June - First Ariane 4 launched


17 July - Launch of ERS-1


1 January - Finland becomes ESA's 14th Member State

20 April - Launch of ERS-2

18-20 October - ESA Ministerial Council in Toulouse, France: ministers agree on the funding of Europe's contribution to the ISS


4 June - Ariane 5's first test flight (Flight 501) fails and causes the loss of four Cluster spacecraft


15 October - Cassini-Huygens launched from Cape Canaveral


11-12 May - ESA Ministerial Council in Brussels which approved investments in major new programmes in the areas of telecommunications, navigation including the definition phase for the Galileo programme (in partnership with the European Union), and Earth observation

10 December - Launch of XMM-Newton by Ariane 5

15 December - Portugal signs Accession to ESA Convention


14 November - Portugal becomes ESA's 15th Member State

15 December - Approval of the development of the small launcher Vega


17 January - Greece signs Cooperation Agreement with ESA

21/22 March - ESA Council adopts Resolution on implementation of measures for European Cooperating States (ECS)                                                                 

23 April - ESA astronaut Umberto Guidoni is first European to board the International Space Station (launched 19 April)

12 July - Launch of Artemis by Ariane 5     

21 October - ESA astronaut Claudie Haigneré is first female European astronaut to fly to International Space Station

14/15 November - ESA Ministerial Council meeting in Edinburgh


1 February - Brazil signs Cooperation Agreement with ESA

1 March - Launch of Envisat by Ariane 5

11 March - Argentina signs Cooperation Agreement with ESA

28 August - Launch of MSG-1 by Ariane 5

11 December - First launch of Ariane 5 ECA (failure)


15 February - Last flight of an Ariane 4 after 116 flights

7 April - Hungary becomes first ESA European Cooperating State

2 June - Mars Express, Europe's first mission to the 'Red Planet', launched from Baikonur

27 September - SMART-1, Europe's first mission to the Moon, launched by Ariane 5

25 November - Signature of the Framework Agreement between ESA and the European Community in Brussels


4 February - Approval of the programme to build a complex at the Guiana Space Centre for commercial Soyuz launches

2 March - Launch of Rosetta from Kourou

24 November - Czech Republic becomes second ESA European Cooperating State

25 November - First ESA/EU 'Space Council' in Brussels


14 January - Historic landing of Huygens probe on Titan

12 February - First successful launch of Ariane 5 ECA

16 March - Greece becomes ESA's 16th Member State

30 June - Luxembourg becomes ESA’s 17th Member State

9 November - Venus Express launched from Baikonur on a Starsem Soyuz-Fregat launcher

5/6 December - ESA Ministerial Council meeting in Berlin

28 December - Launch of first Galileo test satellite (GIOVE-A)


27 February - Romania becomes third ESA European Cooperating State

19 October - Launch of MetOp-A from Baikonur


26 February - Inauguration of Soyuz launch pad in Kourou. BepiColombo, the mission to explore planet Mercury, definitively 'adopted' by ESA’s Science Programme Committee

4 May - Poland becomes fourth ESA European Cooperating State

22 May - A consensus of 29 ESA/EU countries adopt a Resolution on European Space Policy

23 October - ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Node-2 module launched to ISS


11 February - Columbus installed on ISS

9 March - ESA launches first ATV resupply spacecraft to ISS

27 April - Launch of ESA's second Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element satellite GIOVE-B

28 April - Poland becomes fourth European Cooperating State

9 June - Slovenia signs Cooperation Agreement with ESA

12 November - Czech Republic becomes 18th ESA Member State

25/26 November - ESA Ministerial Council in The Hague


20 May - Six new ESA astronauts selected: two Italian, one French, one Dane, one German and one British

29 May - Sixth 'Space Council', Brussels

24 July - Latvia signs Cooperation Agreement with ESA

27 August - Cyprus signs Cooperation Agreement with ESA

10 November - Estonia becomes fifth European Cooperating State


22 January - Slovenia becomes sixth European Cooperating State

12 February - European-built Node-3 and Cupola modules installed on ISS

8 April - ESA's 'ice mission', CryoSat-2, launched

28 April - Slovak Republic signs Cooperation Agreement with ESA

3 June - Mars500, 520-day simulated mission to Mars begins

7 October - Lithuania signs Cooperation Agreement with ESA

25 November - Seventh 'Space Council', Brussels

26 November - Hylas-1, ESA’s first PPP satellite launched


20 January - Romania signs Accession Agreement to ESA Convention

31 January - Israel signs Cooperation Agreement with ESA

16 February - ESA's second ATV, ATV Johannes Kepler, launched to ISS

21 October - Soyuz lifts off for first time from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, carrying two Galileo IOV satellites

21 November - ESA’s Council grants observer status to 10 states that are members of the EU but not ESA: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.

22 December - Romania officially becomes 19th ESA Member State


13 February - ESA’s first Vega launcher lifts off from Guiana Space Centre, Kourou (VV01)

20 February - Malta signs a Cooperation Agreement with ESA

23 March - ESA's third ATV, ATV Edoardo Amaldi launched to ISS

9 May - End of Envisat mission declared after communication with the satellite was suddenly lost on 8 April

3 July - ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti assigned to ISS Expedition to be launched in 2014

5 July - MSG-3 launched on Ariane 5 from Kourou

19 November - Poland becomes ESA's 20th Member State

20-21 November - Ministerial Council in Naples, ministers approve new launcher Ariane 6 and adapted Ariane 5 ME, and Europe will provide service module for NASA’s new Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle

18 December - New Deep Space Antenna station inaugurated at Malargüe, Argentina


19 March - Latvia becomes seventh ESA European Cooperating State

20 March - Planck space telescope reveals existence of features that challenge foundations of current understanding of the Universe

29 April - End of Herschel mission, concluding over three years of observations of the cool Universe

7 May - Second successful Vega launch from Kourou, VV02

14 May - UK Minister David Willetts and ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain inaugurate ESA's first facility in UK, ECSAT, at Harwell

20 May - ESA astronaut Tim Peake assigned to ISS Expedition to be launched in 2015

28 May - ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano launched to ISS for six-month Volare mission

5 June - ESA's fourth ATV, ATV Albert Einstein, launched to ISS

25 July - Launch of Alphasat, Europe’s largest telecommunications satellite, by Ariane 5ECA, VA214

28 August - ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen assigned to make Soyuz flight in 2015

23 October - Last command sent to ESA's Planck space telescope

11 November - Reentry of GOCE

22 November - Launch of Swarm, ESA's magnetic field mission

19 December - Launch of billion-star surveyor Gaia


20 January - Rosetta, ESA’s hibernating comet-chaser wakes up for rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

19 February - ESA selects planet-hunting PLATO mission as ESA’s third medium-class science mission for launch by 2024

28 March - ESA and CERN sign a cooperation agreement to foster future collaborations on research themes of common interest

3 April - Launch of Sentinel-1A, first satellite for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring network

28 May - ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst launched to ISS on six-month Blue Dot mission

29 July - ESA's fifth and final ATV mission, ATV Georges Lemaître, launched to ISS

6 August - Rosetta arrives at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

22 August - Galileo 5-6 satellites launched on a Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

12 November - Rosetta mission soft-lands its Philae probe on a comet, first time in history that such a feat has been achieved

23 November - ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti launched to ISS on six-month Futura mission

2 December - ESA Ministerial Council in Luxembourg; Ministers approve the development of Ariane 6 and Vega C, the Europe’s space exploration strategy, covering ESA’s three destinations for exploration (LEO low-Earth orbit, Moon and Mars) and the ESA evolution, covering the vision for ESA until 2030

18 December - Jan Woerner appointed as ESA’s next Director General, succeeding Jean-Jacques Dordain for a period of four years starting on 1 July 2015


4 February - Estonia becomes 21st ESA Member State

11 February - Launch of the experimental spaceplane IXV

24 February - Hungary becomes 22nd ESA Member State

28 March - Galileo 7-8 satellites launched on a Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

9 April - Bulgaria becomes 10th ESA European Cooperating State

23 June - Sentinel-2A launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

1 September - Estonia becomes 21st ESA Member State

2 September - ESA astronaut Andreas Morgensen launched to ISS for 10-day Iriss mission

11 September - Galileo 9-10 satellites launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

5 October - Eumentsat signed a Cooperation Agreement with ESA for development of MetOp Second Generation (MetOp-SG)

4 November - Hungary becomes 22nd ESA Member State

3 December - LISA Pathfinder launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

15 December - ESA astronaut Tim Peake launched to ISS for six-month Principia mission

17 December - Galileo 11-12 satellites launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana


30 January - EDRS-A, the European Data Relay System’s first laser terminal, launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan

16 February - Sentinel-3A launched from Plesetsk, Russia

14 March - ExoMars 2016 launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan

25 April - Sentinel-1B launched from the European Spaceport, French Guiana

24 May - Galileo satellites 13-14 launched from the Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

5 July - Slovenia becomes an Associate Member State of ESA

8 July - Cyprus becomes 11th ESA European Cooperating State

30 September - End of Rosetta mission, sending its last signal from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and touching down on the comet

5 October - With 74 successful launches in a row, Ariane 5 matches the reliability of Ariane 4, with flight VA231

19 October - Experimental Schiaparelli probe made hard-landing on Mars / ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter enters its planned orbit around Mars

17 November - ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet launched to ISS for six-month Proxima mission

17 November - Galileo satellites 15-18 launched on Ariane 5 VA233 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (first time an Ariane 5 ES is used to launch Galileo satellites)

1-2 December - ESA Ministerial Council in Lucerne, Switzerland. 22 Ministers adopt four resolutions including the 'Towards Space 4.0 for a United Space in Europe'

15 December - European Commission declared provision of the Galileo Initial Services


28 January - SmallGEO, ESA’s new small telecom platform, launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

2 February - New ESA astronaut selected, Matthias Maurer

7 March - Sentinel-2B launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

20 June - Pioneering ICE Cubes agreement signed at Paris Air and Space Show with Space Applications Services (first commercial European opportunity to conduct research in ESA’s Columbus laboratory)

21 June - Joint statement signed at Paris Air and Space Show with 16 satellite industry leaders on collaboration over Satellite for 5G

29 June - 80th consecutive launch for Ariane 5 ECA, flight VA238

1 July - Jean-Yves Le Gall takes up duty as chair of ESA Council

28 July - ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli launched to ISS on six-month VITA mission

1 August - Launch of Vega VV10 (carrying Optsat-3000 and Venus satellites) with successful qualification of new payload fairing

14 August - ESA astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Matthias Maurer joined 16 Chinese astronauts for sea survival training in Yantai, China 

15 September - First Ariane 62 launch service contract for four Galileo satellites signed between ESA, on behalf of the European Commission, and Arianespace

13 October - Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor launched on a Rockot from Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia 

7 November - ESA/EU informal space ministerial meeting, jointly organised by Estonian EU Presidency and Spain’s ESA Ministerial Council Chairmanship in Tallinn, Estonia

23-24 November - Space History Conference, Padua University, Italy, inaugurating third phase of the ESA History Project

4 December - Bulgarian President Rumen Radev visits ESA Headquarters, Paris

12 December - Galileo satellites 19-22 launched on Ariane 5 ES flight VA240 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

14 December - Prof. Günther Hasinger appointed Director of Science, succeeding Alvaro Giménez as of 1 February 2018


19 February - Croatia signs Cooperation Agreement with ESA 

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