30 Facts About ESA


The main European launch vehicle Ariane 5 is operated through Arianespace with ESA sharing in the costs of launching and further developing this launch vehicle.

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ESA had ten founding member states: Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

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ESA launched its first major scientific mission in 1975, Cos-B, a space probe monitoring gamma-ray emissions in the universe, which was first worked on by ESRO.

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ESA collaborated with NASA on the International Ultraviolet Explorer, the world's first high-orbit telescope, which was launched in 1978 and operated successfully for 18 years.

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Later scientific missions in cooperation with NASA include the Cassini–Huygens space probe, to which ESA contributed by building the Titan landing module Huygens.

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Notable ESA programmes include SMART-1, a probe testing cutting-edge space propulsion technology, the Mars Express and Venus Express missions, as well as the development of the Ariane 5 rocket and its role in the ISS partnership.

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ESA maintains its scientific and research projects mainly for astronomy-space missions such as Corot, launched on 27 December 2006, a milestone in the search for exoplanets.

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ESA is responsible for setting a unified space and related industrial policy, recommending space objectives to the member states, and integrating national programs like satellite development, into the European program as much as possible.

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ESA is funded from annual contributions by individual states as well as from an annual contribution by the European Union .

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Also, ESA is not the only European governmental space organisation .

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On 17 November 2020, ESA signed a memorandum of understanding with the South African National Space Agency .

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ESA has a fleet of different launch vehicles in service with which it competes in all sectors of the launch market.

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In November 2012, ESA agreed to build an upgraded variant called which would increase payload capacity to 11.

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At the time ESA was formed, its main goals did not encompass human space flight; rather it considered itself to be primarily a scientific research organisation for uncrewed space exploration in contrast to its American and Soviet counterparts.

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ESA participated in the STS-9 Space Shuttle mission that included the first use of the European-built Spacelab in 1983.

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Beside paying for Spacelab flights and seats on the shuttles, ESA continued its human space flight co-operation with the Soviet Union and later Russia, including numerous visits to Mir.

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In 2008, ESA started to recruit new astronauts so that final selection would be due in spring 2009.

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In September 2014, ESA signed an agreement with Sierra Nevada Corporation for co-operation in Dream Chaser project.

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Additionally, ESA has joint projects with the EUSPA of the European Union, NASA of the United States and is participating in the International Space Station together with the United States, Russia and Japan .

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In October 2020, the ESA entered into a memorandum of understanding with NASA to work together on the Artemis program, which will provide an orbiting Lunar Gateway and accomplish the first manned lunar landing in 50 years, whose team will include the first woman on the Moon.

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ESA has seats on Crew-3 with Matthias Maurer and Crew-4 with Samantha Cristoforetti.

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In 2017, ESA sent two astronauts to China for two weeks sea survival training with Chinese astronauts in Yantai, Shandong.

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ESA entered into a major joint venture with Russia in the form of the CSTS, the preparation of French Guiana spaceport for launches of Soyuz-2 rockets and other projects.

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ESA is co-operating with Japan, the most notable current project in collaboration with JAXA is the BepiColombo mission to Mercury.

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ESA takes part in the construction and operation of the ISS, with contributions such as Columbus, a science laboratory module that was brought into orbit by NASA's STS-122 Space Shuttle mission, and the Cupola observatory module that was completed in July 2005 by Alenia Spazio for ESA.

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ESA has developed the Automated Transfer Vehicle for ISS resupply.

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ESA is an independent space agency and not under the jurisdiction of the European Union, although they have common goals, share funding, and work together often.

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Furthermore, ESA has several non-EU members, most notably the United Kingdom which had left the EU while remaining a full member of ESA.

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ESA is partnered with the EU on its two current flagship space programs, the Copernicus series of Earth observation satellites and the Galileo satellite navigation system, with ESA providing technical oversight and, in the case of Copernicus, some of the funding.

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Whereas ESA will focus will be on the technical elements of the EU space programs, EUSPA will handle the operational elements of those programs.

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