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N° 24–2015: Flags are raised at ESA’s first UK centre

9 July 2015

Jan Woerner, ESA Director General, and Jo Johnson, UK Minister of State for Universities and Science, today watched ESA Member States’ flags rise for the first time at the Agency’s first centre in the UK. 

Two hundred space leaders from the public and private spheres came to ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) on the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, joined by the first ESA Director General, Roy Gibson, after whom the new building is named.

They also celebrated the opening of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory’s Space Development and Test Facility on the campus.

ESA’s first British astronaut, Tim Peake, took part in the celebrations via Skype from Star City in Russia, where he is training for his mission to the International Space Station in December.

The event highlighted how space and space industry contribute to the economy. Space is an investment in the future. Success stories from entrepreneurs and the signing of the Quantum telecom satellite contract highlighted the recent expansion of ESA and the Science & Technology Facilities Council at Harwell Campus, in itself a growing international hub of space, science and business.

As ESA’s centre in the UK, ECSAT focuses on telecom and satcom services – the largest, fastest-growing and most profitable of all space activities. Harwell Campus is one of the biggest and most diverse science and technology campuses in the world and is also growing at an impressive rate. This is underlined by ECSAT’s new Roy Gibson building, which was built to house the sharp increase in ESA personnel in the UK.

ESA’s activities in the UK, consistently in partnership with industry and institutions, have accompanied the economic growth of the space sector, creating new business and employment.

Magali Vaissiere, ESA’s Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, said: “ECSAT exists to lead the ESA programmes that address commercial market needs, whether for infrastructures, products or services.

“We put ECSAT here because of the UK’s strengths in these areas, as well as in entrepreneurship and the supporting service industries of finance and law.

“In practice, that means ECSAT leads the development of new satellite systems in areas like ultra-high definition TV broadcasting and mobile broadband services, as well as applications that require the transmission and management of Big Data, such as those focused on climate and environmental monitoring.”

Jan Woerner completed the ceremony by launching a countdown to raise the flags, adding: “With ECSAT being the most recent addition to ESA’s centres across Europe, I feel proud and honoured to share grounds with our UK friends and partners here on Harwell Campus. 

“The importance of space and its broad activities are clear for all ESA Member States. Today we have reached a relevant milestone together with the UK Government and our partners. Inspiration, science, business opportunities, job creation and benefits for citizens are our permanent goal.”

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA 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. Two other Member States of the EU, Hungary and Estonia, have signed Accession Agreements to the ESA Convention and will soon become new ESA Member States.

ESA has established formal cooperation with seven 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 develops and 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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