Mandate and Objectives
As stated in the ESA Convention (Article II) The purpose of the Agency shall be to provide for and to promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications, with a view to their being used for scientific purposes and for operational space applications systems: a) by elaborating and implementing a long-term European space policy, by recommending space objectives to the Member States, and by concerting the policies of the Member States with respect to other national and international organisations and institutions; b) by elaborating and implementing activities and programmes in the space field; c) by coordinating the European space programme and national programmes, and by integrating the latter progressively and as completely as possible into the European space programme, in particular as regards the development of applications satellites; d) by elaborating and implementing the industrial policy appropriate to its programme and by recommending a coherent industrial policy to the member States.
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Origins and Process of Creation
The origins of the European Space Agency can be traced back to the initiative taken by two scientific statesmen, Pierre Auger and Edoardi Amaldi. In 1959 they suggested that European governments should pool their resources and together establish a collaborative organisation for space modelled on CERN (European organisation for nuclear research), and dedicated to both the development of launchers and the use of satellites and sounding rockets for research. A preliminary organisation was established in December 1960, the COPERS, whose task it was to prepare the programme, budget and administrative structure of a future European space effort. The two functions, research and launcher development were soon split from one another, however. In April 1960 the British government decided to cancel its intermediate range ballistic missile called Blue Streak and to recycle it as a civilian satellite launcher in collaboration with partners on the continent. The costs of this programme, and the military implications of rocketry at the height of the Cold War, limited the number of European governments interested in the scheme. Thus Europe entered space in 1964 with two organisations, one devoted to scientific research (ESRO-the European Space Research Organisation) and one devoted to launchers (ELDO-the European Launcher Development Organisation). The founding Member States of ESRO were Britain, France, Germany and Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, Spain and Switzerland. ELDO's founder Members were the first six of these plus Australia, which made its rocket range at Woomera available to the organisation.
From 1967 onwards the European space effort passed through a number of fundamental policy crises which were only finally settled in 1973. ESRO's scientific programme functioned reasonably well, though governments felt increasingly that its mission should be reoriented towards the development of applications satellites, notably for telecommunications. ELDO's launcher was plagued with technical problems deriving from the difficulties of launcher technology, the inexperience of European industry in this domain, and fragmented project management. Indeed in the decade or so of the organisation's existence its launchers did not not manage to put a single satellite successfully into orbit. A rift thus opened up between those governments, like France, which felt that European autonomy in space demanded that Europe have its own launcher, and Britain, which believed that the United States could be relied on to provide Europe with its launcher needs. The debate was complicated by an offer from the US for Europe to participate in NASA's post-Apollo programme. This included development of the Space Shuttle, a revolutionary technology which, it was said, would outprice conventional launchers and render them obsolescent.
The crises were resolved by a number of package deals agreed between European governments in the early 1970s. These made provision for a reduced science programme, and the development of a number of applications satellites (for telecommunications, aircraft navigation, meteorology, etc.) on an optional basis. At the same time the French government offered to take responsibility for a new European satellite launcher called Ariane, to be launched from the equatorial space centre at Kourou, in French Guiana. The German government took responsibility for Spacelab, a shirt-sleeve environment research facility to be flown in the Shuttle's cargo bay. It was also agreed to wind up ELDO and to group the entire European space effort in a single agency, ESA. ESA came into being de facto in May 1975. The Convention was signed after this Conference by all Member States of the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO) and of the European Organisation for the Development and Construction of Space Vehicle Launchers (ELDO)-except Australia-and opened for signature by the Member States of the European Space Conference. It entered into force on 30 October 1980 though ESA functioned de facto from 31 May 1975, in accordance with Resolution no. 1 of the Conference of Plenipotentiaries (for more details, see the Proceedings of the ESA/European University Institute (IUE) International Colloquium held in Florence on 25-26 October 1993, entitled The Implementation of the ESA Convention-Lessons from the Past, published in 1994 by Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and available from ESA/European Centre for Space Law, ECSL).
Creation date and Birthplace:
The text of the ESA Convention (ref. CSE/CS(73)19, rev. 7) was approved by the Conference of plenipotentiaries held in Paris on 30 May 1975.
The European Space Agency has its headquarters in Paris, where the Director General's office is situated and where the Agency's Council meets, together with the various committees and delegate bodies. Headquarters also houses the various programme directorates and administrative services, with a staff of almost 350. The main decision-making body of ESRO, ELDO and ESA is the Council, made up of representatives of each Member State. In the 1960s an additional body meeting at Ministerial level, the European Space Conference, was set up to define the broad lines of European space policy. That body was abolished when ESA came into being. Instead provision was made for the ESA Council to meet, when needed, at Ministerial level.
The ESRO and ELDO Councils were assisted by a Scientific and a Technical Committee, and by an Administrative and Finance Committee. ESRO's Scientific and Technical Committee was further supported by a Launching Programme Advisory Committee, which was advised in turn by committees of experts dealing with various domains of space science.
This basic structure continues to operate in ESA. Participants in optional programme are represented on specialised Programme Boards with management powers delegated by Council. An Industrial Policy Committee and Administrative and Finance Committee prepare Council's deliberations and can where appropriate be delegated decision-making powers. ESA's external policies are worked out by the International Relations Committee.
Besides its headquarters, ESA has a number of establishments, as well as a launch base at Kourou in French Guiana, liaison offices in Washington in Moscow, and an office in Brussels for relations with the European Commission. The ESA establishments are:
ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre) at Noordwijk, NL
ESOC (European Space Operations Centre) at Darmstadt, Germany
EAC (European Astronaut Centre) at Cologne, Germany
ESRIN (European Space Research Institute) at Frascati, Italy