The European Space Agency (ESA) is an intergovernmental organisation aiming at strengthening the European capabilities in the space domain. Its objective is to promote cooperation among European states in space research and technology and their space applications, with a view to their utilisation for scientific purposes and for operational space applications systems.
- elaborating and implementing a long-term European space policy,recommending space objectives to the Member States, and concerting the policies of the Member States with respect to other national and international organisations and institutions
- elaborating and implementing activities and programmes in the space field
- 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
- elaborating and implementing the industrial policy appropriate to its programme and by recommending a coherent industrial policy to the Member States.
The Agency's projects are designed to find out more about the earth, its immediate space environment, the solar system and the universe. They are designed as well to develop satellite-based technologies and services, to promote European industries and strengthen their competitiveness in the space domain.
Projects supported by ESA address different themes: space science, human spaceflight, exploration, earth observation, launchers, navigation, telecommunications and technology.
The Agency currently has 20 Member States across Europe. Cooperation agreements with other European countries have been signed to extend the scientific and industrial base in Europe. ESA also maintains close relations with the European Union to establish a European space policy. Outside Europe, ESA has signed a cooperation agreement with Canada on some of the programmes implemented by the Agency.
Luxembourg has been a member of ESA since June 2005. This adhesion results of the willingness of the government of Luxembourg to set space as an axis of diversification and sustainability of the economic activities in Luxembourg .
Since then, Luxembourg has been developing a space policy and means for implementation of this policy.This translates mainly into the increased contribution of Luxembourg in the Agency programmes and the provision at ESA level of a budget to implement a national Space programme, LuxIMPULSE.
In addition, to encourage and promote Luxembourg participation in ESA programmes, the government set up a national support measure, LuxLAUNCH.
Several actors and authorities in Luxembourg are involved in space and assume different roles, from managing relations with ESA to information and support of stakeholders in setting up projects.
ESA activities are organised into mandatory and optional programmes. However, the majority of ctivities are implemented through optional programmes. All Member States contribute to mandatory programmes. Conversely, the participation of Member States to optional programmes is made on a voluntary basis.
Luxembourg contributes to the following optional programme:
- Telecommunications programme (ARTES - Advanced Research on Telecommunication Satellite Systems), research programme
- Some Earth Observation programmes, involving multiple activities in order to better understand the Earth system and its functioning
- GalileoSat programme,which aims to develop the navigation system Galileo satellite
- GSTP programme, the general programme for supporting the development of technologies for their use in future ESA missions
- SSA programme (Space Situational Awareness), the initiative within Europe that aims at providing independent information and services regarding the environment, threats (man-made as well as natural) and sustainable exploitation of the region of space surrounding planet Earth (including the Lagrangian points).
With the aim to strengthen the skills and competitiveness of the European space industry, ESA has defined an industrial policy. This latter should ensure balanced access to ESA activities and provides a number of services to companies of all sizes.
To participate in ESA programmes, applicants must follow a number of steps and procedures. They also need to study the different kinds of ESA contracts and the rules to manage intellectual property rights.