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article imageEuropean Space Agency gets an 'out of this world' budget

By Karen Graham     Nov 29, 2019 in Technology
Seville - The European Space Agency (ESA) will enjoy a budget of €14.4 billion over the next five years, after the agency’s 22 member states agreed on Thursday (28 November) to increase funding for space exploration.
The increased space budget comes just as the new European Commission takes office. The new Commission will be under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to lead the EU's executive arm.
The Commission's focus will be on extraplanetary affairs. According to EuractTV, space policy is expected to be granted more money under the EU’s next long-term budget. A dedicated department, combined with defense policy, has been set up by the Commission, to be headed by France’s Thierry Breton.
This year, Germany is the largest contributor to the ESA budget, with €3.3 billion (£2.8bn) or 23 percent, followed by France with a contribution of €2.7 billion (£2.3bn) which is about 20 percent and Italy, with a contribution of €2.3 billion (£1.8bn) or 15 percent.
Swarm is ESA’s first constellation of Earth observation satellites designed to measure the magneti...
Swarm is ESA’s first constellation of Earth observation satellites designed to measure the magnetic signals from Earth’s core, mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere, providing data that will allow scientists to study the complexities of our protective magnetic field.
ESA/AOES Medialab
The United Kingdom, still in the throes of a Brexit, has agreed to contribute a further £374 million a year to the ESA for the next five years in order to be able to continue working on the international space program. This will be the UK’s largest annual contribution to ESA to date.
ESA Director-General Jan Wörner said at a conference in Seville that “it’s a real surprise, it’s more than I proposed, I’m very happy.” Earlier in the week, Wörner had asked for a 10 percent increase to the agency’s budget.
The Copernicus program
To show how much interest European states have in climate science, it was agreed by all that additional monies go to the ESA's Copernicus program - the space agency's earth-observation satellite system.
The SENTINEL-1 mission is the European Radar Observatory for the Copernicus joint initiative of the ...
The SENTINEL-1 mission is the European Radar Observatory for the Copernicus joint initiative of the European Commission (EC) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
ESA
It has already proven to be an invaluable resource this year in tracking floods and forest fires. Wörner acknowledged the Copernicus program is “driven by more awareness of [climate-related] catastrophes and disasters."
"People are more and more interested in climate change and what we can do to protect ourselves against it. Information is key because we can only really act against climate change if we understand what is going on. Copernicus gives us better data," Thomas Jarzombek, with Germany's Economic Affairs Ministry, told BBC News. "Earth observation is the cornerstone of German space policy."
Human spaceflight and robotic exploration
A large part of the ESA budget is geared toward putting the first space station in orbit around the moon, with the aim of putting European astronauts on the lunar surface for the first time. This near-€2 billion program was 98 percent funded and will make the ESA an important partner with the U.S. space agency, NASA.
Ariane 5 rocket on launch pad one hour before BepiColumbo Mission is launched onOctober 20  2018.
Ariane 5 rocket on launch pad one hour before BepiColumbo Mission is launched onOctober 20, 2018.
ESA
As part of NASA's Artemis project, a grand scheme to return astronauts to the Moon, EU member states committed money in Seville to fund two propulsion units for the Americans' Orion crew capsules.
As for the exploration of Mars, the ESA now has the money to advance missions to bring rock samples back to Earth from the Red Planet. Additionally, UK technicians are looking forward to building a surface rover.
Perhaps the most significant news to come out with the budget is the ESA's commitment to continue the trend of reducing costs and introducing recyclability into the mix, a direct reaction to other space powers' efforts, such as Elon Musk's SpaceX, China, and other private companies.
To this end, next year, we will see the launch of the ESA's Ariane-6 rocket, a reusable successor to its highly-successful Ariane-5 model. The entire rocket series has put roughly 50 percent of the world’s satellites into orbit. And that's not bad for a space agency "still playing catch up to its US counterpart in terms of achievements and financial clout," notes EuractTV.
More about ESA budget, European space agency, copernicus, Space exploration, UK committ
 
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